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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #180 --- This simple milk spray stops mildew.
July 25, 2014

400+ Geranium varieties and even more Petunia varieties. It was an impressive afternoon. Mel runs an independent trialing site for annual flowers and there were in excess of 2100 varieties growing in individual containers. Each variety was labeled with its name, the company that developed it and the grower who had produced it. Many of them were new varieties although there were certainly some old favourites as well. He has been doing this for 14 years and each year it grows a little. All of the major garden centre buyers show up here on his open house day to assess what varieties they want in their programs for next year. The local Garden Writers were invited to this year to see this amazing display so that we might be able to communicate to the gardening public just what varieties we found to be the most impressive. That is difficult to do the first time you wander between that many gorgeous annuals. Yes, there were some that were performing better than others. The thing we really learned is why they were all doing relatively well. We all know the importance of regular watering of containers but seeing these which were all hooked to a drip irrigation system that kept them consistently well irrigated and that always had a dilute fertilizer solution in that water, certainly drove home the importance of such practices. What varieties did I find impressive. The wide range of Coleus, both in size and colour gave me a new appreciation for that humble foliage plant. Some single flowered Portulaca were entirely new to my experience and were great subjects for hot sunny spots. Over the next week and months I will distill all my pictures and notes and tell you what varieties I plan to make a part of my garden next year. I will also be taking a close look at the possibility of constructing my own little drip irrigation system. Mel insisted that it was easy and quite inexpensive.

The Tuberous Begonias, are magnificent just now. They are large and full of glorious blooms. They brighten up the shady deck with a range of colours and flower types. The 20 cm pots that contain them are now dwarfed by the foliage and flowers above those pots. Regular water and fertilizer have contributed. Think what that irrigation system would accomplish. All of the best things in life seem to be accompanied with a challenge or two. Metroland Media were here this morning to film a few more tips and ideas for their newspapers and website and we took a close look at those lovely Begonias. As I suspected one or two of the older leaves had some small, tell tale, white thread-like structures on them. Powdery mildew was again rearing its ugly head. It wipes out the begonias, the Zucchini and the Cucumbers every year. This happens as the season starts to wind down but it still happens too soon. I showed them a simple technique that I learned last year. I sprayed them with a rather exotic but effective fungicide. One part milk to nine parts water. That’s it, just plain milk from your fridge. Put it on your Begonias and Cucumbers as well as your cereal and those plants will last much later into the season. 2% or skim or whatever you have, all work as well, because the butter fat content is not the effective agent. Simple but effective and certainly non toxic.

As July winds down a strange process starts to take place in my garden. Most perennials like to be dug up and divided in the spring and a few in the autumn. Another reason that I love my Iris is that they like to be divided in mid summer when there are many fewer chores demanding my time. Depending on the variety, they benefit from this dig and divide process every 4 - 6 years. The centre of the clump has no leaves left emerging from it. It is a mass of overlapping rhizomes with the leaf fans out near the edges. The whole mass is dug up and separated into large healthy pieces of rhizome and its attached fan of leaves is cut down by about half. One or two of these are then planted back into the garden. This usually leaves me with a surplus of healthy Iris fans that need to find a home. The strangest thing happens. Certain people seem to know when to show up at my garden and pretend to be surprised when I have a quantity of Iris to give away. I suppose I could reduce their numbers by actually selling these delights but that wouldn’t be as much fun. Gardeners love to share. The Assistant gardener wants to know why I don’t have such friends as I have just ordered a “few” new Iris that I will pay for and then give away a few years from now.

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.

Lila Asks? It's been almost 40 years since I have gardened in-ground. I have the widest and tallest Zucchini plants producing relatively well in spite of the lack of pollinators , however due to my not gardening in containers this year as my neighbor graciously let me use their garden space. I have been overwhelmed at the amount of Zucchini foliage consuming the tomato space .. Can I safely remove the outer wide-spreading leaves without harming the fruit and plant?

Ken Answers! You should be perfectly safe removing the oldest leaves. In fact you may do yourself a favour by removing them before they become infected with mildew or blight.

Laurence Asks? I enjoy reading your newsletter. I also have a question for you. About 3 weeks ago I dug up about 200 tulips because they were getting overcrowded and there was also a gout weed problem in this section of the garden that I wanted to eradicate. After digging and sorting out the various varieties ( 13 in all), I left the bulbs out in the sun to dry. I actually had them out for two days (but not overnight). I put them into plastic containers but with no lids. Some of the bulbs have started to produce mold and I do not want this to spread to all of them. I intend to discard those bulbs which are producing the mold but is there any fungicide or solution that I can wash the remainder of the bulbs in? What about a very diluted solution of javex (possibly 10%) applied to a cloth that I can rub each bulb with?

Ken Answers! A little mold that looks like bread mold is a regular feature of Tulip bulbs. It doesn’t seem to do much damage if there is just a little but I would go to the garden centre and purchase some powdered sulphur and then put it into your bulb holders and shake gently so that all the bulbs become covered. Store them in as dry a location as possible until you plant them this fall.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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