The Potatoes have arrived. I was getting worried and had even phoned the supplier. Apparently Canada Post’s expedited service wasn’t. One of the ways to keep the infestation of Colorado Potato Beetles to a minimum is to get the Potatoes started as early in the year as possible and that, in my zone, is usually the last few days of April. This year it could have been the middle of April. As soon as the sun is a little higher in the sky I will be in the garden digging a trench.

I enjoy the vegetables and love my Iris but the front gardens are truly at their best right now. There are several hundred Tulips and Narcissus in bloom in a relatively small space and the colour and texture display is a wonderful reward for all of those countless, little holes we have dug in the autumn over the past years. Flower bulbs really are a lesson in advance planning and waiting for nature to do her thing. I’m wandering through this wonderful display with this year’s bulb catalogue and marking spots where something new could be added. If you don’t do that now, you will never remember where that spot is this fall, when the only other way to find the new space is to try digging and slicing through a previously planted bulb and that hurts.

I have planted the Sweet Pea containers, since they will not mind a few cool nights. They didn’t appear to be doing much in their little cell paks but when I transplanted them I discovered the amazing root growth that they had put on. I expect that given a bit more room to spread those roots they will start to grow quite rapidly. This whole Sweet Peas thing is an experiment and I’m anxious to see how it works out.

There are lots more little plants in the cold frame looking anxiously out towards the gardens and containers but there is no great hurry to get the more tender plants out into the cold cruel world. My dilemma is my planned wonderful interruption to the spring planting season. Yes! I’m soon off to see the new twin Grandchildren for ten days and can’t decide whether to risk planting before I go or leave all those little plants for my wife to keep alive while I’m gone. Let there be no hint here that she is not perfectly capable of doing so but rather that she will already be quite busy.

On the other hand they aren’t always easier to take care of after planting them. The new Violas in the front porch planters have been replanted a few times. Something, I suspect the bushy tailed tree rats, (aka. squirrels,) keep digging them up. Clean loose soil and the possibility that they might have buried a walnut there last fall means that I keep finding little Viola plants laying on the porch floor. Is this the same mother nature that I’m happy to cooperate with when planting my bulbs?

I also added a new page about Basil along with a couple of recipes for using some of the seven varieties of Basil that I’m growing this year.

My newsletter subscribers get to ask me questions. Just ‘reply’ to the email newsletter. It is always interesting to read the questions; mostly to see if I actually can answer them or if I have to wade into the textbooks to research the answers. If that happens then we all learn something.

Several of you wondered about the usefulness of my cat that was too lazy to catch voles. Here he is helping me answer your questions.

Darlene asks?We added a new garden last spring (2007) in our backyard and some of our plantings didn't do well over the harsh winter. The garden faces North with only a chainlink fence to block the strong wind. I am most concerned about my vines and three cedars.

The vines are a mix of Thorndale English Ivy, Baltic English Ivy and two Moonlight Japanese Climbing Hydrangea. There is no sign of new growth yet. Should I be cutting off the old growth now or is there something else I could do to save them?

Approximately 40-50% of the pyramid cedars are brown and do not look healthy. Is there anything we could do to save them? I now know we need to do a better job of protecting them for our next winter!

Ken answers!It was a strange winter. The deep snow protected some things and appears to have killed others that should have survived. Your English Ivy is doubtfully hardy in my area and is probably dead. The Hydrangea should be tougher and they grow very little for the first couple of years while they establish roots. Don’t give up on them just yet and don’t cut them back until you see where they grow from. The Cedars, you can prune out the dead parts and then decide if it’s worth waiting for a couple of years for them to fill back in or just rip and replace. The nursery where you purchased them should have guaranteed them. Check that out. The Cedars when they are new, 1 - 2 years, may need some protection from the wind and the late winter sun. Both things dry them out and the frozen soil cannot supply any water to replenish what’s lost. It is usually not the absolute cold that does them in. They should be thoroughly soaked late in the fall to try and mitigate this type of damage.

Doug asks? We have a pond in our back yard, and last year we had about 5 koi that were eaten by something. We live on a ravine, so there are predators. We now have a live trap, crocodile head in pond, scarecrow waterer, radio on at night and an artificial crane. You'd think the backyard was Disneyland. Are there any other things that help in the prevention of predators? We've managed to capture 3 raccoons, but I have the feeling it might be an otter. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Ken Answers! Doug you have a common and difficult problem. How do you know that you haven’t caught the same racoon three times :-) My solution is probably not available to you now. I make my ponds deep with straight sides so that the Racoons etc cannot readily step into them. I put my plants on stands in the middle of the pond. If you really have an otter, (he would have to leave his normal hunting stream and walk up to your pond,) you should just buy cheaper fish and learn to enjoy him, they are not normally nocturnal like the racoons. Good luck; you have taken the best steps available.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON