There were five wonderful days away from the garden and frolicking with six of my grandchildren. They were gathered from around the country for a holiday together and we thoroughly enjoyed the ensuing chaos. Somehow when I returned to work, after five days away, I was about ten days behind in gardening activities and writing. How did that happen? That’s my excuse for a somewhat late edition of Dallying In The Dirt. The weeds did not take a holiday from growing and some small weeding jobs have now taken on major proportions. It is satisfying, though, when the removal of just one weed, clears a significant area of the garden.

Many things have been happening in the garden throughout August and I will try to give you some of the highlights. While we were away we went to the Garlic festival at the Carp, (that’s a small town near Ottawa,) farmer’s market. It is one of the best markets that I have been to and we visit each time we are at my daughter’s place in that village. Anyway, I chose four, from a wide assortment of garlic varieties and brought them back to the garden. I finally got them planted this morning and reserved a few cloves of each. Some night when we’re not visiting anyone, I will saute them all and do our own personal taste test. The most popular variety at the market was Garlic Musica, which is a white hard necked type with just a few, quite large cloves. I will let you know the results of this research. I do encourage you to go and plant your own as Garlic is probably one of the easiest things to grow and it takes up very little space.

My regular readers will have been following the saga of the trellises that I built this spring to replace a large Cedar hedge. It has been very successful. Giant Sunflowers have filled the space between each panel of trellis and a variety of Morning Glories has clambered everywhere. I have come to appreciate the large vivid blue flowers of the Heavenly Blue variety even more that I used to. Many of the others that I planted are indeed rampant growers but the flowers are much smaller and fewer in number and will not be back on my planting list in future years. Tomatoes, Cucumbers and a discrete and disappointing Cup and Saucer vine, Cobea scandens are filling some of the other panels.

A massive Climbing Zucchini has covered more than the one trellis panel it was allotted and has now found its way across the separate Morning Glory and bean Trellis, crossed the path and found the top of the fading Mullein and is reaching for the Impatiens planters that are on the front porch. Amazing growth in one season and some quite tasty Zucchini as well. It’s fruit production does not justify the space it takes but it is certainly fun to watch grow. Its fruit, left unpicked, also becomes quite massive. There is one on this vine that is well in excess of a meter long and 10 cm in diameter.

I must now confess to my obsession. A box of 13 new Iris varieties arrived late last week and they were mostly planted in the new garden in front of the those trellis. After all, the empty space was just begging for new plants and I just happen to wander on to Chuck Chapman’s Iris website one day and before I knew it I had found twenty varieties that I just had to have. Exercising great restraint I ordered half of them and the other three were bonus rhizomes that Chuck added to the order. There is probably an “Iris Anonymous” group somewhere that I should join. Hopefully some of them will bloom them next June and I can share some pictures with you .

It is the last day of August and I am working indoors, as I did yesterday, after 10:30 in the morning because it is in excess of 30C outside. The relaxed end of summer watering schedule is a myth and any thoughts of trying to renovate some of my failed sections of turf, have been banished. The cooler damper days of September are supposed to be the ideal time to germinate grass seed but at +30C I could never keep the soil moist enough to get any reasonable germination. We will just have to be ready to go and spread the seed if and when the weather breaks.

Spent a few days last week indulging in one of my time consuming but creative endeavours. Wedding flowers for my daughter’s sister in law were a delightful diversion from the heat and the weeds. Massed Hydrangeas on the outdoor arbour for the ceremony and some very funky Proteas for the table centres. The bride, of course, was lovely and my bouquet of mixed greens and a wide assortment of interesting blooms, paled by comparison. Such fun from a couple of days of creative work.

Keeping up to date on gardening activities can be followed on a more frequent basis by checking the front page of my web site, It changes every 2 or 3 days to show you what I am up to. That change only takes a few minutes, while producing Dallying is a much larger effort.

My newsletter subscribers get to ask me questions. Just ‘reply’ to the email newsletter. It is always interesting to read the questions; mostly to see if I actually can answer them or if I have to wade into the textbooks to research the answers. If that happens then we all learn something.

Joy asks? I have been trying to grow a dogwood bush for 2 years now and the leaves grow at the top but something is eating them so they look like lace and there are no leaves at the bottom at all. Should I cut it back to almost ground level this fall and see what happens next year???

Ken Answers! The lace like leaves that you are finding are probably the result of slugs eating the soft parts of the leaves and not the less palatable veins. I would find a way to control the slugs, crushed eggshells or other remedies and then cut back a few of the branches this year and then a few more next year so that you slowly renew the plant.

Bonnie Asks? I live out in B.C. and enjoy getting your newsletter. I have one question for you. My good neighbour mowed my lawn for me and also mowed down my iris, cosmos and Russian sage before he realized it. Some of the iris have only been in for two years. Should I dig them up or leave them in and hope that they will come up next year? Keep up with all your great answers.

Ken Answers! Just leave the Iris where they are and they will come back just fine next year. I know some Iris growers who routinely cut their plants back after they flower. Not something I would recommend but they seem to thrive anyway. How did your neighbour get the Russian Sage, it was probably at least a meter tall by the time he mowed it ?

Heather Asks? Every year I put petunias in planters in my backyard, and every year they die. About half-way through the summer, they become covered with little black spots (which I'm told are caterpillar dung). I try to wash it off daily, but there is just more when I return the next morning. As soon as it appears, my petunias slowly start dying and by about the first week of August, they're completely dead. Do you happen to know anything about this? If it is actually caterpillar dung? Or what I can do to prevent it?

Ken Answers ! OK. I’m stumped. I have not seen anything similar to what you are describing and all of the research I have done does not seem to yield any similar situation. If this truly some sort of insect dung then simply washing off the spots will not eliminate the bugs. I’m asking all of my readers if they have seen anything similar and can you identify the problem?

Betty Asks? Can you give me any clues as to when to tell if Watermelon and Canteloupe are ripe and ready to pick? Is one rule to do with a hollow sound when tapped? Thanks,

Ken Answers I have never been able to find out just what I am supposed to hear when tapping a watermelon; b flat, f sharp or what. On the vine opposite the fruit there should be a curly tendril, when that dries up and turns brown the fruit is supposed to be ripe.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON