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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #239--- November raspberries are a rare treat.
November 09, 2015

Wandering through the garden this morning, it’s easy to observe a strange diversity of interesting items. The bright yellow Iris that is about to bloom well after it should have been tucked into bed. Most of the Iris have been cut down and cleaned up to make sure that there is a minimum of old leaves for the Iris borer eggs to overwinter on. Procrastination has its own rewards some days and this beautiful late Iris is certainly one of them. I’m watching the weather reports carefully; if we are going to get a hard freeze then that Iris stalk is coming indoors. It’s already showing colour so it should open just fine after it has been cut. The obvious mature Lily stalks beside it, are a rather pleasant colour and they are stiff enough not to fall down and become messy. Nonetheless, moving them to the compost should be high on the list. Behind the Iris, lies another small chore. There is a nice bunch of healthy Sage leaves that need to be picked, dried and stored so that we can add their delightful flavour to our culinary efforts over the winter. It’s amazing that this one tiny area of the garden has such a diversity of chores and interesting items. It’s so much easier to deal with that tiny area than to think about how much that multiplies when I look up at the whole garden.

They were as delicious as they look. The Heritage variety of Raspberries are excellent fall producers but finding 4 ripe berries in the middle of November is just one of those rare treats that make it all worthwhile. Pruning Raspberries is a bit of a tricky business. It’s the when and which ones that are tricky. The actual pruning is just cutting the canes close to the ground and disposing of them someplace other than your compost. Those prickly canes do not break down easily and can be a nasty surprise in finished compost. The Heritage, my favourite variety, is doubly confusing as they will bear fruit in July on last year’s canes that you didn’t cut down and they will bear heavily in the fall on new growth if you cut last years canes down to the ground. I sort of do a little of both and try to get the best of both worlds.

Last week was a very busy week, which is one of the reasons that Dallying is appearing on Monday. The weather was amazingly warm and that kept us outside as much as possible but time spent outside meant more time needed to be spent inside. Several things were harvested and had to be dealt with. The last huge Celery plant was dug up and brought in and become a large batch of Celery Soup It has a wonderful flavour on its own but the addition of a little 35% cream makes a cream of celery soup that is very pleasant. The big question is always how much cream is “a little?” There are those of us who think you can never have too much.
There were also a large pile of Eggplants that made it into the house. Unlike many of the veggies, the Eggplant fruit are much less susceptible to frost damage than the actual plants. A large batch of the mixture to make Eggplant fritters takes a few hours to create but it is one of the best recipes and a great way to keep the eggplant harvest for use over the winter. Since it is a semi-liquid mixture and we only want a small portion for any evening’s dinner we freeze it in portion sizes by using the ice cube trays.

Wednesday was a lost gardening day in last week’s busy schedule. I spent the day in downtown Toronto judging all of the vegetable entries in the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. My more distant readers will need to now that this is probably the biggest fair in the country and draws huge crowds of city dwellers to see what their country cousins do all year. It lasts for 10 days and features a large horse show and competitions for most farm animals as well as the large array of vegetables that I get to judge. The Assistant Gardener and I returned to visit it yesterday to wander the acres of booths selling everything remotely agricultural as well as a great selection of specialty foods. We sat for a while and watched a couple of competitions, one of which was the grand champion bull. Magnificent animals that I never want to get in a pen with. To see these huge animals with their hair all washed, brushed and blow dried is a great experience. If you live near Toronto and have never been to the RAWF then treat yourself and visit. It’s open until next weekend.

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.

Lee Asks? I am wondering if I can plant spring bulbs in çontainers and winter them in the garden for spring blooming.

Ken Answers! Bulbs usually don't do well in containers when kept outside. The soil freezes solid and expands crushing the bulbs. If you can store the containers in a garage or someplace where it may not freeze, you will have much better success.

Rebecca Asks? I have brought in an hibiscus to try and keep it over the winter. I have it in a very bright but cool room, solarium, but it continually drops it’s leaves. Is there anything I can do to keep it healthy to bring out next spring?

Ken Answers!Mine is usually quite happy in our solarium, the difference may be in the definition of "cool" My space is about 65F during the day and a bit cooler at night. Mine always gets a rather severe haircut at some point and last year that was done as I brought it in because it had been frosted. Try pruning it and then the new growth will be used to the new conditions.

Bonnie Asks? Hi there...I recently purchased two wonderful acorn squash from the farmer's market, and saved some seed's from each. I just cleaned the *GUNK* off them and they've been drying on a piece of paper towel on the cutting board. What's the best way to store them thru the winter, for planting next spring?

Ken Answers! Squash seeds are usually easy to deal with. After the gunk has dried to the point that you can brush it off, seal the seeds in a plastic baggie and store in a dark cool spot. It doesn't have to be as cool as the refrigerator. Winter squash usually don't need to be started early indoors, just plant them outside after the last frost when the soil is warming up.

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