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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #123 --- I learned about grape pruning a little too late
March 14, 2013

It was a bit warm and the sun was shining insisting that I go and wander outside in the garden. There were those rampant grapevines calling out to me. It was the perfect day to prune them. I knew that I had to prune them very severely, so I selected one strong cane to tie to each of my six wires and cut them back to about 4-8 buds each and removed all of the other canes as close as possible to the upright stem. A few days later when the weather was less pleasant I sat down to write a page on the website about home garden grapes and started out by doing a little research. I quickly discovered that maybe I should have done that research before I attacked my vines. I hadn't done it totally wrong but it certainly wasn't correct. Apparently there are several different pruning styles and I had followed none of them. Luckily grapes are very rampant growers and are very forgiving and I can correct my mistakes next winter, I had come close to creating a 6 stem kniffen and I didn't even know what a kniffen was. I really should learn to read the instructions first.

The onions are all germinated in the basement and now I have trays that look thick grass growing under the lights. A few days ago I seeded the first of the other early vegetables, the Broccoli, Cauliflower some Pak Choi and Kohl Rabi. Most of those seed packages were last years so I put two seeds in most of the cells to allow for some reduced germination. I'm always amazed at how many germinate even when the seed is older. Of course in most of the cells that had two seeds they both germinated. The failure to germinate usually occurs in the cells with only one seed, a true example of Murphy or Sod's law. After just a few days on the nice warm germination bed they have germinated and I get out my little snips to eliminate all but one seedling in each cell. It's important to do this as early as possible to give each seedling the maximum room to grow.

The Begonias that were started before Christmas because they were supposed to be very slow growing, aren't. They are outgrowing their cell packs and I'm going to have to transplant them into 4" pots. That's making room under the lights more difficult to find. I plugged in the heating cable in the outdoor hot frame yesterday and will start moving the older Geraniums out there next week once the soil has warmed up. I must get out and water that frame to help spread the heat around and to stop the heating cable from burning out. They will overheat quickly if they surrounded by dry sand that acts as an insulator.

The garden outside is slowly waking up despite the snow cover. The Witch Hazel in the middle of the back yard is in full bloom and it is bigger and better this year. The rich red flowers are plentiful enough to make a show of colour that can be seen from the kitchen and what a welcome sight that is standing above the snow. At the retreating edge of the snow, in several spots. The brilliant white blooms of snowdrops are brightening up the edges of the gardens. Their 3cm tear drop blooms would never be noticed in the middle of the summer garden but they are the most spectacular thing in bloom at this time of year. The bubblers are opening up holes in the ponds’ ice cover and the fat and happy goldfish can be seen slowly moving about as the water warms up.

It is a very busy time of year for my speaking schedule. Some weeks I’m out speaking three nights but I do thoroughly enjoy it. For those of you who live in Southern Ontario this week is the opening of Canada Blooms, a 10 day extravaganza of everything gardening and a real treat for the winter weary gardener’s soul. Forced bulbs and flowering shrubs, some very creative garden designs and a “few” things for sale. My Garden Writers association also holds a big meeting there and I seem to be one of the organizers, a job that consumes several hours of my time each week. After that meeting this Saturday, I get to go down and enjoy the show on Thursday 21 March and then speak at noon that day. If you are in the neighbourhood stop by and listen and say hello.

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

Hedi Asks? I am enjoying your Dallying In The Dirt. I have a question about grow lights and the actual light bulbs. I have been starting seeds for some time now and have been transferring them from the grow lights in our living room lights in our living room, out to a greenhouse a few days after they are pricked out and transplanted as I find keeping them under the lights causes most seedlings to become leggy. This year the greenhouse isn't available to me. Is there another kind of light bulb that isn't too expensive that would allow me to keep them under lights longer? I just use your average fluorescent bulb from the hardware store. br>
Ken Answers! I use mostly the inexpensive cool white tubes with a few warm white, equally inexpensive, mixed in to get a slightly wider spectrum. The secret to non spindly plants is to give them sufficient light which is quite possible with fluorescent tubes but the amount of light reaching the plants decreases dramatically over distance. Setup your lights so that you can adjust either the lights or the shelves to keep the tubes within 2"-4" of the top of the plants. I do have a heated, (in ground cable,) cold frame that I move plants too but that's mostly a space thing. I do put plants directly from under the lights into the garden after maybe a day or three sitting outside

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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