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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #226--- Will the birds leave me the ripening strawberries?
July 19, 2015

I hate leaving projects unfinished, of course a garden is never finished, but puzzles should be. Spent no time in the garden this week as we were traveling. A family wedding in Vancouver which created a reunion with our two oldest children and five oldest grandchildren. That eventually led to spending time starting a 1000 piece puzzle with Julia, my favourite puzzle partner. I left her with about 300 pieces that all looked the same to us and returned home to the garden. Wandering around Vancouver was a very weird experience. They had dry brown lawns that many had never seen before. The wet province was desperate for rain and I had just left a garden that was recovering from its underwater experience. We did bring them a little rain, of course, because we were going to an outdoor wedding. The skies were bright blue when they needed to be and a great time was had by all. Checking the rain gauges the morning after our arrival home, found them as dry as a Vancouver lawn. The organic hen manure fertilizer Acti-Sol that I had generously spread across the entire vegetable garden was still laying there in brown dry granules, providing no benefit to the suffering tomatoes. We have had about 2 cm (0.5") in the last couple of days but not enough to do much good. I may actually get to use the new drip irrigation system this week. The few Tomatoes that were trying to ripen were suffering badly from blossom end rot. Uneven watering is one of the causes of that condition along with a calcium deficiency. Gardening as a way of life is certainly never boring.

A wonderful Assistant, Assistant Gardener did come by the garden and water the containers during our absence so they greeted us with healthy robust growth. The Strawberries in the three tiered container have grown much better than the ones that were planted in the ground. These first few, almost ripe, berries are being watched very carefully. They will be perfect in about another two days but will the birds and squirrels let me enjoy them. They are, as Strawberries will, throwing long runners out and I’m not sure where to direct them. In the garden they just root and carry on but the container ones are hanging in mid air looking for someplace to go. I will redirect some of them back into the container soil and maybe cut off some of the rest and plant them in the garden with the others to create a bigger Strawberry patch. It’s fun to observe the two different varieties that I started, because one has white flowers and the other red ones. Which one will produce the biggest or best crop of berries?

The back corner of the garden is brightening up the house and causing some significant family remembrances. The Assistant Gardener’s father spent many hours in his little back garden in England tending to his prize winning Dahlias. I planted several new ones this year partly because they make such great cut flowers and partly to fill up space as I make a desperate attempt to reduce the size of the vegetable garden. They are magnificent and they are making the Assistant Gardener all nostalgic. I even managed to put in some supports for them as they have a tendency to flop over from the weight of their blooms. Tomato cages do have another great use. Now I have to decide whether to prune off many of the flower buds in order to make a few huge flowers to take to the flower show or whether to just leave them to make nice blooms to bring indoors. I’ll probably do a few of each. Competitive gardening can be a serious addiction.

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.

Laurie Asks? I learn much from your newsletter and enjoy it very much. I tried the coconut husk as a mulch this year and like it so far. I have an issue with jackmanni clematis and coneflower leaves. They turn yellow from the bottom of the plant up. You can see the veins but they don't dry up and fall off. I've attached some photos and any ideas you have are appreciated

Ken Answers! Your plants appear to show the typical indications of Iron deficiency, the veins stay green and rest turn yellow or white. The ph of your soil may be too high, tying up the available Iron or it may actually lack sufficient iron. Look for a fertilizer, usually a soluble one such as Plant Prod, that has chelated iron. A quick fix is to find a chelated iron solution that can be applied as a foliar spray. Use a soil test kit to determine your soil's ph and if it is above 7, (neutral) than add compost or other organic material which will, over time, reduce the soil ph.

MargeryTwo years ago I purchased an Eastern Redbud and while bringing it home from the nursery, the leader was accidentally broken off. It has done well in my garden and had lovely flowers both last year and this. The problem is that it seems to be growing wider and not growing up. I thought another branch would take over as the leader but it has not happened naturally. Is there something I ought to do?

Ken Answers! Redbuds typically have a bit of a "spready", (is that a word?) habit at the best of times and taking out the leader is going to encourage it. You may have to choose a leader and train it up and then even prune some of the spreaders to restrain the spreading growth.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON

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