Dear Helen: One of the fences in our yard had about 30 years of ivy growth on it. We cut it all down, but the "stem" bases left are like tree trunks. How can we get rid of them or keep them from resprouting?
Another fence is thickly covered in ivy and our energies are depleted. Any suggestions? If ivy is acid-loving, would lime help to weaken it?
Dear C.R.: To eradicate ivy stumps consider inquiring about stump-grinding them. Or, at the first sign of sprouting apply vinegar mixed with a a little detergent to them. This is most effective when done in dry weather.
To make removing ivy from the other fence a little easier, use a chainsaw if necessary to cut the trunks off about 30 centimetres (12 inches) above the ground. Then cut the stumps down as close as possible to the ground, to leave a good gap between the cuts.
Let the top growth dry, at which point it will be easier to pull off the fence. Doing this in hot weather hastens the drying.
English ivy is a widely adaptable plant that tolerates a wide range of soil pH levels, but its ideal pH is around 6.5. Growth may be somewhat inhibited in alkaline soils with a pH above 7.5. It might be worthwhile to apply lime in an attempt to weaken the growth.
Dear Helen: I'm wondering why my beets never grow properly. They stay stunted and develop neither nice greens nor usable roots. What varieties have you found easiest to grow well?
Dear B.L.: The most common cause of beets failing to develop in our climate is an acid soil. My garden soil produced no usable beets (or spinach) until I began treating the soil before planting with Dolo-pril, a granulated form of dolomite lime. Digging a shallow layer of seaweed into the soil in the fall previous to spring planting is helpful, too.
Beets are Mediterranean plants, native to areas with alkaline soils. Though the plants do not require high nutrient levels in the soil, a plentiful supply of organic matter is good for their growth.
There are many excellent beet varieties. This year in my garden, the two best were Kestrel, a smooth, round beet with tender, flavourful flesh, and Taunus, a long, cylindrical beet with tasty, smooth flesh. Cylindrical beets are very convenient for slicing.
Taunus is listed in the catalogue from William Dam Seeds. West Coast Seeds and William Dam both list Kestrel.
Lutz beet (West Coast Seeds), another easy grower, is one I usually sow in early July for nicely sized, young beets for fall and winter use - though the others, at least in recent mild winters, store well in the garden with a little extra soil covering the root tops to protect them from frost damage.
Milner Christmas Magic. Milner Gardens, 2179 West Island Hwy. in Qualicum Beach, is hosting its annual Christmas Magic evening event from 5 to 8: 30 p.m. from Friday to Sunday, Dec. 7-9, and Dec. 14-19. Walk through trees twinkling with lights, listen to live music and visit Santa. Take in storytelling and enjoy refreshments during this family-oriented event. Details at milnergardens.org.
Festive wreaths and centrepieces. Russell Nursery, 1370 Wain Rd. in North Saanich, is offering the following courses, each lasting about 90 minutes. Cost of $35 plus HST includes all materials. Festive greens and natural decorations will be used. Call 250-656-0384 to reserve a space. russellnursery.com
? Create a unique wreath: Dec. 7, at 10 a.m.; Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.; Dec. 9, at 1 p.m.
? Create a centrepiece: Dec. 13, at 1 p.m.; Dec. 16, at 1 p.m.
Honeysuckle rib basket. The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is offering a workshop on creating this traditional European-style basket used for centuries as a household gathering and storage basket. The project will use natural materials from the garden or the wild, with a honeysuckle vine handle. See hcp.ca/courses for a photo. Cost to members $110, others $154. All materials are included. Phone 250-479-6162.
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