“Never look a gift horse in the mouth,” is a tired old cliche (attributed to St Jerome 400 AD, I looked it up) that suggests that it’s impolite to question the value of a gift. An old gardening friend of mine offered me the three tiered light table from his basement and I agreed to take it. Regular “Dallying” readers will know that my success overwintering Geraniums has overwhelmed my growing space. This gift horse looked like the perfect answer. I imagined one of those commercial, white enamel affairs that was somewhat light and portable. Desperate for space to start some of my seeds, I finally went to pick it up, this week. Oops! See Picture. It is certainly going to expand my growing space.

It took me less than a day to completely disassemble it, carry it into the basement, piece by piece and reassemble it. We won’t discuss the amount of basement clearing out that had to take place first. I took the opportunity to add a third fluorescent tube to each level, it was already in pieces and the extra light can only be good. Why is it that I can purchase a two tube fluorescent fixture for $19 but a one tube fixture is $25?????

The Geraniums that were almost filling my existing light table have been moved and occupy less than half the new space. That additional space may come in handy as I was able to make quite a number of additional cuttings from the biggest geraniums as I moved them. The old gardening axiom, “A garden will always expand to fill the space available for it,” was never truer. I really am my own worst enemy.

Seeds have started to arrive and I still have many more to order. I received some samples from McKenzie Seeds last week. Purple Wave Petunias and White Bacopa. These are difficult to grow from seed and therefore usually expensive as plants in the spring. The difficulty is partly due to the size of the seed. Very tiny. McKenzie has two tricks to make the process easier. They have coated the seed to make them larger and they are shipping them in little plastic vials. These vials are designed to make the seed easier to handle. How many times have you ripped a seed package completely open to try and get those tiny seeds lodged in the creases and corners of the package. The vials worked, they flowed out easily and the coated seed made them just large enough that I could easily plant them into individual cells. They are under the lights and on the heating cable and we’ll report on their progress. So far it looks like a great idea.

I have rarely ordered from Park Seed before but I did this year because they were the only seed catalogue that was offering all three of the All America Awards seeds and my high Cdn$ made it more attractive. Of course my wander through their web pages did result in my having to have just a few more of their new introductions. The 15 packages have arrived and the Viola and Osteospermum have been planted. The new and interesting peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and Lime Basil, just to note a few of them, will soon find there way into the soil.

About 25 packages have just arrived from Renee’s and it was only with the greatest of will power that I sat down to write this before I started to plant them. I’m particularly excited about the two dwarf Sweet Peas that she recommends for hanging baskets. There has been a bit of a gap since the last issue of Dallying. A little rest from the garden and some more time with the Grandson. Now, with the fluorescent lights shining and the heating cables warming, the gardening season is in full swing here and I have lots more to tell you about in the next few issues of Dallying In The Dirt.

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.

Mary Lou asks? In the late fall, I dug up two Gerbera Daisy plants (correct name?) in an almost past-the-point state from my garden and brought them inside. They have been thriving and sending up new growth until recently. Sadly, both plants have fallen victim to some kind of powdery, white mildew on their leaves first one plant and then the other. What’s a girl to do? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

Ken answers! Yes, Gerbera is the correct name. You have done very well if they have been growing well all winter. Yes that is probably powdery mildew on their leaves. What’s a girl to do? The short answer is - make compost. They are unlikely to recover and the amount of fungicide you would have to spray would not make you happy. You really want to know what went wrong after months of apparent success. There are two types of white mildew. One spreads when the soil and leaves are too wet (your most likely problem,) and the other is the opposite, thriving in warm overly dry conditions. The common denominator is the lack of air circulation. It seems that you can’t do it right. If there are any uninfected leaves wipe them with a moist cloth to remove any spores and have them in a place where they will dry easily; lots of air movement. Cut off all the infected leaves and don’t water until the soil surface dries out. You may have limited success but at least you will feel like you are trying.

Nadia asks? I am having an awful lot of trouble with your tree rats (squirrels) eating the bird seed from a small feeder that I bought., The birds certainly like the seed, but so do the squirrels!!! Do you know of a baffle or something that I could use? Any ideas?

Ken Answers! There are any number of, so called, squirrel proof bird feeders on the market. The best one I’ve found is in the Lee Valley catalogue. The weight of the squirrel closes the opening to the feed that the much smaller weight of the birds does not. It takes seven sparrows on the feeder to close the opening. I had another one that was electrified by batteries that gave the squirrels a nice little shock. It worked well but the wiring broke in the second year. I still use it and have found that spraying the pole or hangers, that the squirrels climb on, with kitchen non-stick oils like Pam, seems to greatly deter the tree rats.

111 Trent St. W.
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