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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #316 - We are starting Begonias from a couple of sources
May 03, 2018

A weekend or more of solid ice on everything and then the continually cold, wet weather has left gardeners frustrated. It has been a while since I last published “Dallying” because everything I wanted to do and to write about just wasn’t happening and then suddenly it became very warm and all gardeners were rushing about, trying to get caught up. The more we rush the behinder we get. I finally found a day that was warm enough to let me dive into pond cleanup. At the end of the day when I thought everything was clean and ready I plugged in the pump and was met with the sound of silence. That was a great song but a frustrating end to busy day. The picture shows the large filter thingee that the pump attaches to and there it is, out of the pond. That’s the new pump in the centre with its cord wrapped around it. Now we just have to attach the outlet hose and nestle it back into the pond. There always seems to be one more job than expected but that certainly stops life from ever getting dull, frustrating but not dull.

While waiting for the ice to melt, I visited the mailbox on a regular basis looking for a parcel. I had ordered some lovely new Begonia tubers and was anxious to get them started. It was also a job that I could do indoors. They did finally arrive. The company, Botanus, was shipping from B.C. and was loath to put them in the mail when they might freeze on the way here. Here is my method for starting them. They are all, 9 I believe, planted in a shallow flat and just covered with a thin layer of soil. This allows me to get them into the propagation bed where the bottom heat will encourage them to wake up and grow. This was done a little over a week ago and they have a few roots and some shoots starting to emerge. When they are getting crowded in that flat they will get transplanted into the 20 cm (8") clay pots that will be their home for the summer. In a smaller flat beside this one I have some tiny tubers that I rescued from the Begonias that I grew from seed last year. There appears to be some bumps in the soil that I hope are shoots emerging from those little tubers. I’m anxious and excited to see both my new purchased begonias and to see if the little saved ones actually grow. The uprights around the edges of my deck are waiting to be decorated by these shade loving delights.

In the last few days I have tired myself out carrying trays of plants up from the basement. The cold frame is now almost full with the cool season vegetables and the potted up Dahlia and Colocasia tubers. Those vegetables should actually be planted in the garden and their subirrigation containers by now but I have just started preparing them after the long winter. They will hopefully be planted tomorrow. One of my gardening rules has always been to have the Peas in the ground by the end of April. That would have required breaking up the last of the frost this year but hopefully these few quite warm days will see those Peas in the soil tomorrow. I’m writing “Dallying” this afternoon instead of planting because it’s raining and I’m a bit of a wus about working in the rain.

This is a beautiful picture of the great blue heron leaving my yard. I would like to think it was for the last time but that would be delusional. He has been very active this spring and I have had very little Heron activity in the spring in previous years. He cleaned out my fish before the ice storm. A wonderful reader gave me a couple of pails full of big fish as they were shutting down their pond. I put them in my ponds that afternoon and woke up to this feathered “friend” the next morning. I was planning to put up a small fence that day but he didn’t give me a chance. There is still a nice school of fish in the top pond because it’s too deep for him. Lots of research on deterring Herons has made me realize that they are not easily deterred. I’m going to try a couple of strands of monofilament fishing line in a low fence around the edges of the ponds before I acquire any new fish. Many suggest an electric fence but I’m not sure I want that much expense and effort or the electrified wires finding the grandchildren when they come to feed the fish. It’s very low voltage, but? They are really quite gorgeous birds; why can’t we just agree to get along. Here we are again with another unplanned and unwanted job that slows down the fun stuff.

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.

Sofie Asks? I have a question - a have two very large begonia boliviensis tubers (orange), one is sprouting, not sure about the other. I also have one small tuber sprouting. What are your thoughts on cutting them in half or quarters for more plants? It has been a while since I did this and can't remember how successful I was! Would it be better to do cuttings once they start to grow. I am potting them up today, outside during the day, inside overnight. (are they called bulbs or tubers?)

Ken Answers! I have cut B boliviensis tubers after they have sprouted so that I could see where each sprout was. Moderately successful but the tubers get so big you need to to do something.

Laurie Asks? I really enjoy your newsletters. I have one of those neighbours who accepts any "free" plant that's "really easy" to grow! Consequently I have lily of the valley growing under the fence into my yard where I certainly do not want it. Do you know any way to kill them when they sneak under the fence. It's getting to be more of a battle every year.

Ken Answers! When Lily of the Valley is in bloom it becomes much more difficult to hate it but that's only good for a week or three each year. Very difficult to eliminate but digging deep is the only real answer and even that's temporary. You can pot it up and try to sell it to the next unsuspecting soul as it really can be a great ground cover in heavy shade except, as you know, that it won't stay where you put it.

Garth Writes!Have you ever grown Nicola? Very tasty yellow fleshed spud that originated in Germany about forty years ago and is now off patent protection and has been available in Canada for about four years. It took me forever to find my first 500 gms at $8 !!! They're getting a bit cheaper now, but I now have all the seed I need from my own production. The bonus is that these are a low glycemic potato that diabetics can eat. GI of 19 (vs. ~50 for regular taters), and a glycemic load of 9 (most important number for diabetics - thankfully I'm not one). Not often we find something that's good for us, and tastes good. Dieter's rule - if it tastes good - spit it out :-)

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