Can it really be a month since I last sat at this keyboard and did a little “Dallying In The Dirt?” What a glorious month it has been in my little corner of the gardening world. Temperatures well above normal, lots of sunshine and a much neglected garden urging me to come and spend many delightful hours repairing the results of that neglect. We travelled, off and on, for a few weeks in the late summer and early autumn and, as gardens do, they quickly exhibited signs of that neglect. The weeds that would have taken a couple of hours to deal with in September seem to take a couple of weeks to do so in November. My back is sore. My knees are calloused. My gardener’s soul is thrilled at the winter ready state of most of the garden. I thought that next spring was going to be truly ugly but Mother Nature has been extremely kind to me allowing me those extra days. There is one tiny corner around the back of the ponds that still needs some attention but a couple of sunny hours this week should solve that. The Geraniums in the front bed, on November 23, are still blooming. They were a bit frozen this morning but seemed to have survived to live a few more days. I do fear that when winter arrives it won’t be gradual but I do have my season’s pass at the ski hill paid for and ready for use.

Yesterday I scrubbed, cleaned and bleached all of the shelves and pots etc that are under the lights downstairs. The Aphids that magically appeared there during last winter’s seed starting are not going to find a home their this year. Too many tasty treats were missing from the garden this summer because we could not defeat those aphids no matter how hard we seemed to try. Not this year! All of the germinating trays and cell packs will find themselves in a hot bleach bath in the next few weeks, as will everything else that is used in our seed starting. Vigilance will also be greatly increased. I have never before had such a problem, so it was rather well advanced before I realized what was transpiring.

The Cymbidium Orchids, which need a cool period to initiate flowering, have finally been moved inside and they all have bloom stalks developing. It should be a glorious winter of Orchids in the Solarium. The new Oncidium Orchid whose amazing flowers seduced me a couple of months ago, is producing two new bloom stalks that are going to be as big as the original one. I admit to, having not yet done any research, to see what I should be doing for this plant but apparently it thrives on whatever I have been doing, which amounts to sitting on the kitchen counter in the sun filled solarium and getting watered sporadically.

I continually try to reduce the number of part time houseplants that spend the winter indoors and the summer out with diminishing success. Last year I kept one dwarf Cyperus from the pond in a bucket of water. Why are there three this year??? They grew in a basket at the entrance to the upper river and worked as a very effective filter keeping the water clear. The grass that shared that basket was messy and floppy so I kept three pieces of Cyperus so that they could fill the entire basket next year. The discarded grass was, of course, hardy and wintered happily outside. The object of the exercise is to make less work and maintenance each year but I seem to be failing miserably at that. I could always just go to the garden centre each spring an purchase all new plants but somehow that just doesn’t seem to be a viable option.

The warm autumn days also created the opportunity for another very satisfying activity. When I was digging and weeding in all of those neglected beds I found several Red Lily Bugs ( they are technically beetles not true bugs,) that were wandering around in a semi dazed state. The warm soil was confusing them about the end of their hibernation and I took great delight in crunching them. Each one destroyed this fall is one less to attack my emerging Lilies in the spring. The little unexpected successes are so gratifying.

Being outside so much has left one other autumn activity neglected. The box of Jetfire miniature Daffodils is still sitting in the basement waiting to be potted up. Having bright blooming Daffodils on the counter in late February is another of those easy to do treats that make winter gardening so worthwhile. They need eight weeks in the cold cellar to bloom so the later I plant them the later they can appear in the winter kitchen. In a perfect world they are just starting to appear as the last of the Christmas planted Amaryllis are finishing. We give Amaryllis bulbs as Christmas presents to a variety of people and then we plant the extras to dazzle us with their huge blooms in the middle of winter. Grandchildren get a bulb, a pot, a bag of soil and time with us learning how to plant them. They then report regularly on the amazing growth and another generation of potential gardeners has experienced the thrill of watching their efforts produce amazing rewards.

The vegetable patch is still showering us with its many blessings. Even as we transition to purchasing a few vegetables we have Cabbage, Leeks and Swiss Chard out in the garden. The winter lettuce that we have in the cold frame is doing quite well and we are shelling the dried remains of the pole beans in anticipation of enjoying a large pot of baked beans.

Time to answer a few questions and then get back into the garden, after the pails of flowers in the kitchen have been made into 18 table centres for a church dinner on Friday night. How do I get myself into these situations?? 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 gardening-enjoyed .

Eleanor Asks ? You mentioned drying your cayenne peppers. I grew some but some seem to develop dark areas and if opened they have fungus. Do you split them open to allow more air inside the pod to avoid this or how do you dry yours.

Ken Answers! I use a needle and string to make a hanging rope of Peppers. A few of them turn black and I just discard them as it happens. Make sure you wash your hands and the needle before you do anything else. Very hot.

111 Trent St. W.
Whitby ON