2018, September 2018, What to do in the garden

A good time to plant

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I get asked a lot if fall is too late to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials, and the answer is a resounding “No”. In the fall, they are starting to get ready to retire for the winter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the strength to establish themselves- quite the contrary. In the fall, perennials, trees, and shrubs don’t have to spend their energy on making leaves and flowers and attracting pollinators, so what energy they have can be used for root growth and getting settled in their new place.

Some caveats apply – if the summer has been very dry, and the plants seem stressed in their pots because they haven’t gotten enough water, you might want to pass them by and find others that have been better cared for. You don’t want to start with a stressed plant.

Also, if it’s a dry fall, and there is water rationing, it’s better to wait until spring when hopefully more water will be available. Just like any other time that you are planting, the new plants need to be well watered for several weeks in order to do well.

In New England, it’s best to stop by Halloween. But until then, as long as there is enough water, you can have great success with new plants. And sometimes they are on sale, because nurseries are often looking to get rid of stock so they don’t have to overwinter it. Win-win!

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2018, September 2018, What to do in the garden

Time to order bulbs!

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It’s hard to believe that it’s that time already, but it is, in fact,  time to think about ordering bulbs so that they can be delivered at the best planting time. At this time of the season, when the garden is still pretty full, it’s hard to think about where to put them, or why you would even want them, really. But try to remember that feeling that you had in March, of wanting spring to come, and how nice it is to see the first snowdrop, or have daffodils outside your front door, or to see a drift of Grape Hyacinths at the edge of your walkway or patio, and consider adding to the display. It’s a gift to your future self.

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As for where to plant them, that’s a little trickier, when the garden is full. So here are a few tips:

-Plant some near the front door, or the garage if that’s your main entrance, or where they can be seen from a window that you look out often. It’s often too cold or rainy or muddy in the spring to explore the out-of-the-way parts of the garden, so they will be wasted if you put them there. Put them where you can enjoy them.

-Don’t plant bulbs where you usually have piles of snow from the plow or underneath the roof where snow is likely to pile up. Those places will melt last and the bulbs may never get a chance to do their thing. (I know this from experience!) Likewise, don’t plant them in a shady, north facing place – same problem.

-Think about planting them next to your fall blooming plants. That way, the spring bulbs will have come and gone before the fall plants start to get going, and they won’t compete for space.

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In a month or so I’ll write about how to plant your bulbs, but in the mean time, check out your local garden center and see what they have to offer, or try some of the mail order sources below. One word of advice – when it comes to bulbs, bigger is better, and it’s worth spending a little extra money for a bigger bulb of the type that you are looking at. Those have greater food reserves and will produce a more robust plant.

Have fun!

White Flower Farm

Burpee

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2018, September 2018, What to do in the garden

Last time to fertilize roses

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As I wrote about in April (See blog post from April 12), roses really appreciate a monthly dose of fertilizer from April through September. Well, here we are, in September, and it’s time to give them their final feeding before allowing them to start getting ready for the winter. This means letting any new growth that was encouraged by this latest meal to grow and harden off before the cold weather comes. if you fertilize too late, then the new foliage will get killed by frost and you will have wasted all that effort.

I will re-attach the drawing of where to fertilize, so that you don’t have to look back for it. Hopefully it will have become old hat if you have been feeding your roses monthly, but if not, it’s not too late and they will appreciate their last supper for awhile. I hope that you have had an excellent rose season!

rose drip line

2018, August 2018, What to do in the garden

Time to Harvest Garlic

garlic

 

If you grow garlic, then by now the leaves have probably turned brown and you are wondering if it is time to dig them up.  At this point, the leaves aren’t providing any food for the bulbs, so growth has stopped and the answer is “yes”. Gently dig up the bulbs and set them somewhere that isn’t in full sun, where the air  can circulate around them, and leave them there for two to three weeks, being careful to make sure that they don’t get wet (i.e. bring them in if there is a threat of rain, or better still, find a good spot inside.).

Once they are dry, rub off the soil and either braid the stems and hang them somewhere out of direct sunlight or cut off the stems and put them in a well ventilated area until fall, when they can be broken up and the individual cloves planted for next year. And, since you won’t need all of them next year, you are free to use them in cooking! There are some delicious recipes that use garlic online – click here for some yummy ones from Eating Well.

If you don’t grow garlic, but would like to give it a try, small bulbs, called setts, are available from a number of sources. I have had a lot of luck with Territorial Seed Company, although there are lots of sources out there.

Happy harvesting!

2018, August 2018, What to do in the garden

Staying ahead of Japanese beetles

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Japanese beetles can be a challenge at this time of year, eating every rose in sight and making an unsightly mess. Staying ahead of them – or even just keeping up with them -can be a lot of work.

There are gadgets out there that some swear by, like the pheromone-emitting bags that lure the beetles into their trap and kill them. I have no direct experience with these, but have always wondered if attracting Japanese beetles into your own yard is a good idea. Assuming the traps aren’t 100% effective, isn’t there a chance that you could end up with more beetles than you would have had without the trap? (Or is the trick to convince your neighbors to get it…) Anyway, if it works for you, great. No need to argue with success!

jap beetles

Other methods of getting rid of them are a little less palatable to the squeamish, but do work if you have the time and the patience. These consist of squishing them by hand (yeah, I know…) or knocking them off the leaves into a container of dish soap and water, where they drown.

There are additional things that you can do to help. Keep your plants healthy so that they are able to withstand an attack better. You can also try planting plants that they don’t tend to like in amongst your roses, such as Nepeta, and Chives, Garlic. And as a last result, contact someone with a pesticide license to come and deal with the grubs.

An integrated approach is probably best, as it is with most things. Good luck!

 

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Japanese beetle grubs

 

 

2018, July 2018, What to do in the garden

There are always flowers…

Henri Matisse said, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” At this time of year, it’s easy to get so caught up in our lives that we forget to stop and look at the garden and what it has to offer, so this week I thought I’d post some flower pictures from around the virtual garden. I encourage you to stop and spend a few minutes enjoying your own garden, or that of a friend – the summer goes by so quickly…

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2018, July 2018, What to do in the garden

When do I water?

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The dog days of summer are upon us and it’s time to check in with our chlorophylled friends to see how they are doing. If there hasn’t been any rain of significance, our plants would probably love some help, since in the heat, the moisture in their leaves evaporates and  the roots can’t take in water to replace it if the soil is dry.

Sometimes it seems like there has been a lot of rain, but when you actually check, only the very surface of the soil has any moisture to it. This won’t do the plants any good. Even if the top inch of soil is wet they will need additional water, because if their roots can only get water at the surface, that’s where they will develop, and the result will be a plant that is unstable and can’t fend for itself when the surface is dry but there is adequate ground water. Ideally, plants need about an inch of water a week, which equates to a deep watering.

“How on earth do I know if there has been an inch of water?” you ask. That’s a good question, especially since knowing how much watering to do is part learned, and part instinct. I usually recommend that people get a rain gauge, a container that collects the rain and is marked in inches so you can see how much has fallen. (For an example, click here) They are inexpensive, and take most of the guesswork out of rainfall amounts. You can also dig down between  the plants and see how the soil feels 6 or more inches below the surface, but a rain gauge is much easier!

Plants will often survive a drought, but they won’t thrive. So making sure that they have adequate moisture is an important way to protect your investment and to make sure that you garden continues to look its best. And if the plants are new, water is absolutely critical to their continued existence because they haven’t developed a deep root system yet.

Leonardo da Vinci got it right when he said, “Water is the driving force in Nature.” Happy watering!

 

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Have fun with it!
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It’s preferable to water the soil rather than the plant, but you can’t fault this young gardener’s earnest attitude!