Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October (early October) Garden Talks

Hello again,

It is time for some early October Garden Talks in Skillin's Country. We Know gardening and here are some great tips. Check back often as we will be adding to this post over the next few days.

*Fall is a great time for planting shrubs, trees and perennials. The ground is still warm, yet the air in Skillin's Country is cooling, and that makes a great combination for newly planted material to adjust to! 

*I know that I write about watering endlessly! But fall watering insures plants are not drought stressed and therefore weakened going into the harsh winter. Also plants will actually store water to help compensate for any evaporation that occurs on windy winter days. Evaporation can also be dramatically reduced by spraying broad-leafed evergreens like rhododendrons with WILT-PRUF. Finally moisture that is in the ground from fall watering will be used by your plants in the Spring--this gets your plants off to a Spring head start!

*October is a great month to trim many perennials back to the ground--especially focus on all dead (yellow and brown) growth. Also the ground is usually moist this time of year. Pull on some old pants and get those knees dirty and pull some weeds. The moist ground makes for easy pulling! 

*As the month progresses, clean your perennial beds of weeds (as I just discussed) and also rake out any plant and other debris. Then you will have nice clean open beds and I use this opportunity to lay some Espoma Flower Tone or Plant Tone around my perennials. This natural or organic feeding will work to enrich the soil through the remainder of the fall and will leave a better soil situation with some nice nutrients for when your plants fully awaken in the Spring. I also lay some compost down around my plants. This is a great of way long-term investing in your soil. Fall is a great time for this as the weather is often spectacular in Skillin's Country and this means less to do in the busy Spring.

*It is nearly time to store our summer flowering bulbs such as tuberous begonias, dahlias and gladiolas for the winter. Unfortunately these lovely bulbs cannot survive our winters outdoors in the garden.

After a truly hard frost has knocked the life out of the foliage of these bulbs, I dig them carefully out of the ground. You will be amazed at the growth your bulbs have put on over the summer! Cut the foliage away from the bulbs (such foliage makes great compost!) and knock as much soil as possible off the bulbs. Let them sit for a couple of days on your porch or deck until all the soil can be easily rubbed off.

Dahlias and glads in particular will have added to the parent bulbs over the summer. By that I mean that the dahlia tubers will have added new tubers and the gladiola corms will have added new corms to the parent corm. Feel free to break off these new additions; they will mean more plants next year! Tuberous begonias will have almost doubled in size. There is really nothing to divide but in a situation where you may have had 4 or 5 begonia tubers in one container for 2011 this means for 2012 in the same container you can probably have 3 begonia tubers and still have the same showy look. This means more containers of beautiful tuberous begonias next year.

Winter storage of these bulbs should have 3 goals:

 (1)   Treat the bulbs for any mildew or little bugs they might have now. Bulbs are living creatures; mildew can reside on them or tiny bugs called thrips can also call your bulbs home. We recommend a product called all natural Garden Dust by Bonide. I put some  dust in a plastic bag and place some bulbs in that bag. Close the bag and shake it well; this dust will cover the bulbs and help get rid of mildew and pesky little bugs such as thrips.

(2)   Prevent the bulbs from freezing. The bulbs should be stored in a situation where the winter temperatures are cool—between 40 and 50 degrees. I have an unheated crawl space under my house that works well. Most people have heated basements that may well be too warm. I have heard of people digging a hole about 18” deep outside next to their foundation where the temperature hovers just above the freezing mark.(I have not tried this method myself).  Some people have cool basement corners and store their bulbs against the cool basement walls.

(3)   Prevent the bulbs from dehydrating. I store my bulbs nestled in some loose good quality potting soil or peat moss in the same plastic bags that I shook them with the Garden Dust. Once I have the bulbs snuggled in with the soil or peat moss, I tie up the bag and wish them a good winter’s sleep. A "zip loc" baggie works great as well!

In late February, it will be time to wake the tuberous begonias and pot them in fresh soil. They will have to stay indoors near a sunny window until the danger of hard frost is past in the Spring. “Ditto” for the dahlias except I would plan on starting them in early March. The glads can be started indoors in mid April.
*October to late November is THE time to plant Spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and crocus. Daffodils are a Must Have--they are as hardy as can be and their yellows and whites are brilliant. Plus they are not a choice of deer or other roaming and munching garden plundereres. Crocus and snowdrops can be planted in a south facing spot and bring bright touches of color as early as mid to late March depending on the spot.

These bulbs can be planted later than early November too. So if you "forget" to plant your bulbs and find them in a bag indoors on Thanksgiving afternoon--don't stress. (Don't plant that day either; have another piece of pie and watch some football). I picked to mid November because it is usually colder after mid November. Just bundle up!!

*Margaret of A Way to Garden maintains a superior gardening site that I check in on often. *She gives a great tip here about vegetable gardening: "PREPARE A SEEDBED NOW for peas and spinach for next spring, to get a headstart on such early crops. Spinach can even be sown now through Thanksgiving, even in the north, and covered with fabric for super-early spring harvest; not the peas, of course."

     *We talk a great deal about garden cleanup these days and for good reason. In most cases we recommend to compost what we clean out of the garden. Margaret points out with vegetable and annual plants that get pulled out: "before composting the remains, cut them up a bit with a pruning shears or shred, to speed decomposition. I sometimes just run piles of dry things over with the mower (nothing too woody or you’ll wreck your blade, of course)."

*We hope you have had a great tomato year! But your tomato plants and leaves should be thoroughly raked up, picked up and trashed. Tomato plants carry too much blight to be worth your compost pile.

*Have many green tomatoes and worrying about them ripening--especially with cold weather coming to Skillin's Country? Click HERE for some good tips on what to do with your tomatoes with cold weather approaching.

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
October 3, 2012

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