Garlic, dogwood, and well-composted manure

Dear Anne,

“I plant garlic every fall and it seems to do quite well, but wonder if I should be fertilizing during the growing season. I don’t plant it in the same place every year and I do amend and try to replenish the soil.”

Ellie Stewart, South Delta

It sounds as if you’re doing just fine with your garlic. Because you’re doing crop rotation and nourishing your soil regularly, it should already have all the nutrition it needs.

Though it likes to start off in deep, rich soil, garlic is actually quite a light feeder and leaves lots of food in the soil for the next crop.

But garlic does like regular moisture in the growing season. So it will need extra watering if we continue to get long, dry spells at times when we normally have drenching rains.

Dear Anne,

“I have a flowering dogwood, Korean, I think. Its flowers are pink and it’s a nice, smallish front yard tree. It gets lots of sunlight, but later in the summer its leaves get a bit blighty. Would dormant spray help?

“Also, I’ve been pruning/shaping the tree in the winter when it’s dormant. Is this the optimal time? I don’t want to be cutting off all the flowering branches.”

John Barbisan, Vancouver

Virtually all the infections flowering dogwoods get are fungal. So, yes, dormant spray will help. Your dogwood is probably Cornus kousa. Does the name ‘Satomi’ ring a bell? It is a pink-flowered variety that’s popular here. Satomi’s leaves turn purple in fall.

Because flowering dogwoods don’t respond to pruning at all well, as little should be done as possible. The flower buds are formed in fall, so when you must prune, it’s best to prune immediately after flowering. Dead branches can be removed any time.

Dear Anne,

“My grandson has purchased a community garden plot and is so excited to plant vegetables for the family. He’s brand new to gardening so it’s a big learning curve for him.

“He’s now ready to add manure to the soil and has a place to get free cow manure. I’m concerned as to all the weeds it will bring. What would be the best option? Don’t worry and just be a good weed-puller or…?”

Diane Benner, Surrey

Any animal that feeds on grass or hay will produce manure with lots of weed seeds. But manure that’s been composted for a year has far fewer seeds, because heat within the pile is intense enough to kill most of them. Your grandson needs to ask if the manure is already composted, and if so, for how long.

Free manure is an attractive option, and if it’s already composted for a year or more, I’d say, “Go for it!” If not, it would be best passed up, especially since he’s a first-timer.

New gardeners on a learning curve don’t need to add extra weed-pulling to all the new things he’ll be doing anyway. As well, un-composted manure tends to burn plant roots.

Actually, this farm manure may be well-composted anyway, because people with animals don’t always find it easy to unload all the manure animals make. So it could have been piled for quite a while.

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