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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #338 - There are some old and some new spring problems this year
May 09, 2019

It’s been a while since the last issue of “Dallying” and with spring slowly arriving there has been much to tell you, about the activities in the Garden. BUT! The day after the last issue a nice surgeon repaired a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder and that has drastically reduced my gardening and my writing. I’m picking this out slowly with my left hand and it’s driving me crazy. The weather has slowed the season by almost two weeks but true spring arrived a few days ago when we were able to have our first feed of Asparagus. That is always a joyous occasion in our house. The cold frame is filled with transplants hoping that my arm and the weather soon allows them to get set free in the garden. The Assistant Gardener has had a significant promotion which is helping but not necessarily thrilling her. Apparently it will be several weeks before I gain much use of my right arm and just in case you are wondering this is the result of a bad moment on a ski hill in February. From here on you will find more pictures than text because that’s just much easier to do left handed.

Before the surgery I had started to prepare my Earthbox containers for planting the cool season vegetables. My technique is to dump all of the soil into the wheelbarrow and then clean out any soil and roots on the screen or in the water reservoir. The soil is loosened, removing any large roots that I find and then returned to the clean container, adding the requisite lime and fertilizer strip. One of the advantages of this dump and loosen technique is the warming of the soil that would otherwise take many more days. I have now planted the six I was able to prepare but I now need some help to continue as I can no longer lift them. Volunteers are slowly lining up☺ I have until the end of May to get all the boxes ready and maybe even planted.

The long cool spring weather has made the hundreds of bulbs in the yard somewhat slow emerging but the upside is that they last a lot longer in the cool damp days. The Narcissus clump in the foreground is several years old and the Tulips by the evergreen, Chamaecyparis nootkatensis pendula, are new this year. The Assistant Gardener is happy with their longevity as they remind her of the drifts of Daffodils in U.K. of her youth.

I seem to have successfully overwintered a pair of very large and healthy bunnies. Bunnies, really is too cute a word for these furry mowing machines. If they would restrict themselves to the grass and eat it evenly, I might view them a bit more sympathetically. They seem to really like this particular Daylily as they mowed the whole clump to about half its size. I expect to see a few of their progeny munching on their favourite vegetables and perennials in the near future. What can I possibly put in my trap to entice them away from the banquet that they find everywhere in the yard. The answer is to fence the yard and get a Jack Russell terrier and while that can be quite effective it creates other conundrums.

This is just one of those things that fascinate me in the garden. Tulip bulbs will push their way up through several cms of hard and heavy soil. There always seem to be a few of them that emerge through the centre of a decaying leaf and can’t seem to break free of it. A very gentle tug from the gardener quickly releases it, leaving that gardener wondering what happened to allow that particular decaying leaf to have the strength to restrict the power of an emerging Tulip. That’s what keeps us in the garden year after year, the little unanswerable mysteries that Mother Nature provides, to those of us who take the time to notice and ponder.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. To ask a question just “reply” to this ezine. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Val Asks? . Every year I envision a theme for my North west facing balcony in Toronto (4x8), I know kinda minute. And every year I have such a lovely blast of colour for a month or two. I have followed the rule of thumb for planting little ones that is tolerant of such blasts of warm and cold winds but if they survive then the mealy bugs, well the green tiny nuisances gets to them. On one of my adventurous years I did a grass garden and boy was I ever pleased. This year I am contemplating a sea of purple and yellow. Any suggestions regarding types of plants that may just do the trick?

Ken Answers! I can see a mixture of dwarf Marigolds and Ageratum. The Ageratum is not quite purple but they are both floriferous, sturdy and rarely bothered by bugs that sometimes seem to find their way to your balcony. Good luck and keep trying new things.

Ann Asks? Do you fertilize your perennials? With something like 10-10-10? When is the ideal time? Now, or is it still too early?

Ken Answers! I don't make a regular effort to fertilize my perennials. The perennial bed will get regular?? additions of my compost when transplanting or dividing. When I plant new bulbs that bed will get generous helping of Acti-Sol, a pelleted dehydrated chicken manure which may not be available on your side of the border. It's main function at that time is to deter squirrels although it actually is a fine organic fertilizer.

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