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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #243--- It's time to empty the water barrels.
December 08, 2015

It was a quiet but wet morning and I just didn’t feel like tackling any of the remaining outside chores. Right there in front of me on the breakfast table was a pile of dried bean pods that had been saved when the bean trellises were taken down. It was a pleasant 45 minutes shelling those beans. Not only did I take the next step towards that wonderful pot of baked beans, but I managed to convince myself that I had done something productive. Eventually the sun, sort of, came out and I put on the coat and boots and wandered outside. There were still several pots to empty and store. The soil goes into a big garbage bin to be used again next spring and the pots are stacked away. The plastic ones stay outdoors under or on the potting bench and the terra cotta ones get to go inside the garage. They will still freeze in there but they won’t absorb moisture and then freeze, because that makes them split into dozens of pieces. These are chores that should have been done much earlier but the weather has been so warm that hardy annuals such as Petunias have continued to bloom and that has encouraged my natural inclination to procrastination. The fine folks from the Weather Network drop by on a regular basis to shoot gardening videos for their web site. I know, it surprised me the first time they asked, as well; Weather network / Gardening videos??? You can see our latest gardening video here.

While I was outside, I decided that I had better attend to one important chore before things really did freeze. I have a couple of water barrels that collect rain water for the containers all summer. They need to be emptied and cleaned before they freeze solid in the winter. Freezing when they are full could easily crack them and besides, all of that water has some great uses at the start of the winter. Everywhere that I planted bulbs this fall will get another good soaking to make sure that those bulbs can develop lots of healthy roots so that they are ready to explode with all their colourful blooms next spring. All of my evergreens will also get well soaked with that collected rain water. They need a large supply of water in their soil to survive until spring. They use very little of it during the winter and the actual cold temperatures don’t really bother most of them. We saw a lot of winter damage on those evergreens this past spring but in most cases it was not a direct result of the cold. In the late winter and early spring the sun shines longer and warmer. Those warming rays of the spring sun, wake up the needles and leaves on our evergreens and they start the process of transpiration. That is, the passing off of water vapour and the drawing from the soil, fresh water filled with nutrients. The long cold winter had the soil so heavily frozen that those plants’ call for fresh water could not be met. That’s when the needles started to dry out and turn brown. Making sure that the soil is well saturated now will help to mitigate that damage.

I have these large pots of ugly strap shaped leaves that spend the summer in the back alley. They get watered and fertilized regularly despite their rather decrepit appearance. Now the rewards start. The earliest of those Cymbidium Orchids are putting up huge bloom stalks with several buds on each. The early ones are usually a bright yellow variety that should enliven the solarium in the next week or so. Orchids for Christmas, what could be better. There are two other varieties that are mostly white and they should be in bloom by mid January. These large flowered Orchids will stay in bloom for about 3 months, keeping us in flowers throughout most of the winter. I can see the biggest pot is putting up four flower stalks, it should be just dazzling when they open. A few of them are also bursting out of their pots and that means dividing and repotting them next spring when they go outside. I find the extra pots created are sometimes difficult to give away. I need to keep pictures of them, in bloom, to show people what they are turning down. A pot filled with brown and yellow spotted leaves just doesn’t have any sales appeal, even free.

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.

Claire Asks? My indoor palm tree is looking rather poorly. The bright green colour is fading and it appears to have many tiny brown or white spots on all the leaves.

Ken Answers! Being a Palm, I suspect that you have an infestation of Spider Mites. These tiny 8 legged spiders live on the underside of your leaves and drill holes to drink the sap and that leaves all of those tiny dots you are seeing. The adults are not that hard to kill. The trick is to learn their life cycle. Spraying them with insecticidal soap will kill them but they reproduce every 4 days. The eggs that hatched an hour after you sprayed are laying more eggs 4 days later which means that you have to spray every 2 - 3 days for a couple of weeks to catch each generation before it can start the next one.

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