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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #164 --- A strawberry pot makes a great herb container.
April 05, 2014

You have received the last few issues of “Dallying” on Mondays and I’m now trying to get back to Fridays. Most of you will do your gardening on the weekend and would find information about gardening activities more useful beforehand. Probably Saturday morning this week and Friday next week. Had busy and interesting gardening week. Spent a few hours at an insurance company on Thursday doing a “lunch and learn” session with the staff. We looked at a variety of herbs for the garden and some of my recipes that utilize the herbs that I grow. I then demonstrated planting a “strawberry pot” with a variety of herbs and one of the attendees was lucky enough to take it home. One of the interesting things about most of these “lunch and learn” sessions is that I generally get to do the same thing twice to cover two lunch times for the staff. I get to immediately change anything that didn’t work or to incorporate the answers to the most common first session questions but I also have to repeat myself and remain as fresh and enthusiastic the second time around. Fortunately, when I’m talking about gardening to an eager audience, that’s not difficult at all. It’s hard to decide whether actually spending time in the garden is more fun than talking about it. Of course, if I didn’t do a lot of the former then I couldn’t do the latter.

It’s amazing just how rapidly the huge quantity of snow covering my gardens can disappear. A few warm sunny days and it’s mostly all gone and mid week there were a couple of Crocus in bloom. These are the little Crocus tomasinianus that are widely used in my garden because they are early and, more importantly, the squirrels don’t like them. The area just off the patio, under the Walnut tree has many of these Crocus that pop up there, before the Hosta start to emerge. So far two of them have made it. We will wait patiently?? for the others. I have rummaged through my bulb storage box looking for things that seemed to have made it through the winter. Several large Colocasia seem to be in good shape and they have been potted up. They are big corms, (one of the large storage organs we tend to lump together, incorrectly, as bulbs,) and needed 12 -15 cm pot (5" -6") to hold them. I had at least 6 of them. They do multiply during the summer and, of course, I wouldn’t think about discarding any that might be surplus to my needs. No room under the lights so they went straight out to the cold frame. They’ll probably get more heat and light out there anyway. It was 92̊ F when I opened it on a sunny day earlier this week. The Dahlia tubers are looking a little suspect and I have put them in a warmer spot to see if they show any signs of life before I pot them up. I may have to go and acquire some new and different varieties.

The Grapes, Crab Apple and Harlequin Maple have now all been pruned so I can congratulate myself for getting the winter chores finished before all of the snow has disappeared. Now it’s on to the spring projects. The first one that I can attempt, even before the soil is dry enough to work with, is to rebuild the river between the top two ponds. Over the last 12 years or so, the stones and soil have shifted, leaving a very narrow passage for the water to move through. It blocks up easily and it is really no longer very decorative. The paving stones, that it runs through, have also shifted so they will be coming up along with the rubber liner for the river. A whole new river bed will need to be created and then the path that it runs through will be rebuilt around it. I’m hoping that it sounds like a much bigger job than it actually is. It is one of my favourite little garden features, because the younger grandchildren love making little boats and floating them down the river and I have great fun watching them.

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.

Linda Asks? Last fall I dug up my Lilly's and really worked in some Sevin into the soil to try and see if I could get rid of the problem I am having with the dreaded Red Lilly beetle. What I am wondering as I am noticing the Lilly's are starting to grow. Should I plant them in a new spot or try the same spot that they were in, and I live in the Finger lake's region of New York, When would be a good time to replant them?

Ken Answers! The best time to replant is as soon as the soil is dry enough to work in. The Red Lily Beetle overwinters as an adult in the soil so planting them in a new location will let them get started before the bugs are flying and can find them. As for your Sevin treatment, I don’t know if that will work, it wouldn’t work here because such chemicals are unavailable to home gardeners.

Jennifer Asks? I am green with envy at your copper coloured witch hazel and would like to find out what variety it is. My witch hazel is just now showing its yellow colour -it was planted for a friend whose birthday was April 1st- so in spite of the wild winter it is not too far off its usual date.

Ken Answers! My Witch Hazel’s variety is Diane.

Elspeth Asks? My vegetable garden is not large, as a result where they get the best sun is limited. If I amend the soil, can I plant in the same spot I did last year?

Ken Answers! Rotating crops is particularly difficult in a small garden because you simply can’t move anything far enough to have any serious effect. Keep the soil as rich and healthy as you can and remove any diseased plants as soon as you see them.

Carol Asks? Ken, my pussy willow tree needs to be severely cut back. I know I must wait until the "pussies" have turned to leaves before I cut. Any major suggestion - how much, how, what tools, cut below present clusters of branches?

Ken Answers! Pussy willow is such a rampant grower that you probably can’t do anything wrong. Prune it to reduce its size and to improve its shape and I would do it now. Bring some of the cut branches into the house and enjoy the “pussies” as they emerge.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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