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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #353 - Weird weather is the theme of this issue of Dallying.
November 27, 2019

This whole edition of “Dallying” will probably mention the somewhat unusual weather more than a few times. I was semi organized to send out the next edition about a week after the previous one and then that weather went strange. About two weeks ago I turned off the pump for the ponds because they were frozen over and there was about 15 cm of snow sitting on that ice. A week ago I decided that we needed to get some air into that water so I chopped holes in that ice and inserted the three bubblers. The picture is today and you might notice the complete absence of either snow or ice but the bubblers are pumping out the air. All gardening seemed to suddenly stop about three days after the first frost as the second frost hit about -12 C and that ice appeared on the ponds. There is always an upside. I did manage to spend a day skiing that week and that was the first time ever, that I have skied in Ontario in November. Yesterday it was +15 C and I was back in the garden cleaning up the Asparagus beds and, more importantly, cleaning out the, ice free, gutters. Now I want the garden to remain snow free for a while and the snow to remain on the ski hills so that I can do both on alternate days. That’s not too much to ask from my dear friend Mother Nature, is it???

This is a bag of Crocus bulbs and they are sitting on the kitchen table. They should be in the soil. I didn’t feel like digging through a few cms of snow to plant bulbs and, just previously, I didn’t want to disturb the annual flowers to plant bulbs. I should have done it yesterday instead of cleaning those gutters but getting the ugly jobs out of the way first seemed like the correct call. I started this morning and got a nice bunch of Hyacinths planted and as I was finishing that it started to rain and it still is. So today is “Dallying” day and hopefully the return of the freezing weather will hold off long enough to get these little delights into the soil. I have to make a trip to the garden centre first to buy a bag of Acti-Sol. That’s the dehydrated chicken manure fertilizer that we spread on the soil after planting bulbs to deter the squirrels. If I plant the bulbs and then drive to the garden centre those bushy tailed tree rats will already have started feasting on my Crocus by the time I return.

The All America winning Viking Red on Chocolate Begonia was such a hit in my garden this year that I attempted to propagate a few of them by cuttings. As you can see from the picture I was quite successful. They readily produced a mass of roots and continued to flower in the propagation bed. I potted them up this morning and will wait for a week or three before I give them the ultimate test. Many begonias will root quite easily but quite often it is difficult to get those cuttings to branch out into fuller plants. I will pinch out these plants when they appear to be established and see if they produce any side shoots. This really just an experiment for interest sake as they grew quite readily from seed last year. They didn’t seem to set any viable seed to harvest this summer so I thought I would try the vegetative route. I could always just buy fresh seed but that would be no fun.

Here is the ultimate gift for any gardener that lives in southern Ontario. The The Toronto and Golden Horseshoe Gardener’s Journal has always been an invaluable tool and this year it has been greatly revised to make it useful to a wider geographic readership. The Battersby sisters, garden communicator friends of mine, have taken this well established journal and greatly expanded its contents and its geographic usefulness. It has pages to enter all of your garden activities, successes and the occasional failures, (aka learning opportunities,) along with detailed lists of resources. Each week has a list of things to do in your garden and a way to extrapolate those tips to your region. Always order two for a gift, because you won’t want to give it away if you are foolish enough to only order one.

We need another pretty picture and we need to acknowledge our many American readers and so I give you the Thanksgiving Cactus Schlumbergera truncata. Here it is blooming beautifully in my solarium right on the week of American Thanksgiving. I have to admit that it completely ignores our much earlier celebration of Thanksgiving. In fact, this year it was still outside enjoying the sunshine in mid October. It belongs to a group of plants that are known as photo periodic, meaning they bloom under the influence of day length. In this case it is the shorter days of autumn that convince this Cactus to bloom. The Christmas Cactus is a closely related species that just needs a few more weeks of short days to initiate its bloom cycle. I was clever enough to bring it indoors before that -12 C frost that would have turned into mush.

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.

Donna Asks? So, my question is about my lavender. Do I cut it back to short stems? or do I let it freeze and snip it all in the spring? It is a nice healthy clump and I had great results with flowers and fragrance this year. I dried some for bowls of that great smell. I might not be able to do this chore next week, but thought I would ask the expert.

Ken Answers! Cut it back in the spring when you can see where it's going to start its new growth.

Connie Asks? I live in the Niagara peninsula area. Just dug up my cannas and not sure if can keep them in peat moss in a cooler chest in my unheated garage. My basement is too warm .

Ken Answers! As long as they don't freeze they should be OK. Cannas are tough.

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