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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #137 --- I'm visiting fabulous Quebec City
August 17, 2013

I know it’s Saturday already but I’m in Quebec City at the annual Garden Writers’ Symposium. It’s been a few years since I’ve been here and I realize that I may never have been here in the summer. Always came for the skiing. What a fabulous city. Walked through the old town last night looking for dinner and the whole place is packed with people out enjoying the evening. Been on one day of garden tours and found this floral butterfly at Laval University. Good friends, good food, great gardens and some enlightening educational sessions make this an event I try never to miss. Being in Quebec is just making it a whole lot better. Having fun explaining the city and its history to our American members. Hope the garden at home is doing well under the care of the Assistant Gardener.

Before I left there were a few chores that needed to be done. My wildly successful crop of Water Hyacinths had almost completely covered the pond. A couple of bushels of them are now quickly turning into compost. I removed them from the pond a bit carefully so that all of the gorp stuck to their roots, stays there and also heads for the compost. Great stuff for the compost but not so great to go back into the pond. Clarifying the pond is one of the reasons that we have the Hyacinths there.

I planted no regular Impatiens this year to avoid the Downy Mildew that is wiping them out everywhere. I did get a few variegated Impatiens from a friend and decided to plant them to see if they were resistant. They’re not. This week they defoliated and I expect to see the stems collapsed by the time I get back home. The New Guinea types in the front wall planters have proven to be as resistant to the Downy Mildew as they were supposed to be. I’ll have some suggestions for replacement plants in the spring. My Caladiums were very slow to start but are now putting on a great show with their fancy coloured leaves.

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 I try to change it every few days so check back often.

Liz Asks? I have a question regarding my raised beds. This spring my “assistant gardener” made two for me. We filled them with top soil and had visions of fresh veggies well into the fall… Well the peas and beans are twice the size of their supports and the lettuce and carrots are also doing great, but the tomatoes are another story. The plants (and there are a variety from cherry to heirloom) are small as are the sad little tomatoes attached. Should I add something to the top soil ie sand, peat (although I don’t like to use it)? Is top soil to “heavy” for tomatoes?

Ken Answers! Top soil in containers, even containers as big as your raised beds tends to compact and get very hard. The vine crops are aggressive growers, especially this year, and not bothered by this as much as the Tomatoes. Give them lots of water and a little fertilizer and then amend the soil with sand and peat or some other organic matter, compost, before your replant them next year.

Susann Asks? I have two Rose of Sharon shrubs that are about 8ft tall and healthy... do I leave all the leaves on the trunk or pick them off so it looks more tree like? I got a Jack in the Pulpit from Garden Import, followed instructions for planting and one shoot came up which died, so I just left it hen about 2 weeks later dug it up and it had 2 little green nubs growing? I replanted it with the nubs just above the dirt surface, should they be beaneath the soil?

Ken Answers! The Rose of Sharon shaping is strictly your design preference. They will grow just fine either way. The Jack in Pulpit will usually come up quite nicely the next year but they do need to be planted a few cm deep to help them survive the winter. They will typically grow in the spring and then disappear by mid summer.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON
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