As Daylight Savings Time comes to an ends and the air grows cooler I’m finding plenty to do in the garden. Late October and early November are prime times to make the plant moves and garden changes we’ve discussed during the summer. Our garden is in constant motion as we relocate, remove, and add plants. In this article I will share some of the tasks that keep us busy outdoors.
This hydrangea is on the move (again). It has languished in three locations, and location four is the last stop before the compost pile (don’t tell Shawn!). Sometimes a new spot works and sometimes a plant is just not right for the garden and the conditions. With space at a premium we have to pick and choose.
An unseasonably warm January and February this year coaxed many plants to bud early. We thought we had skipped winter until the cold returned in late February and remained through March. The hydrangea recovered from the freeze but the summer heat nearly wiped it out. We’ve created a new space in partial shade which should help the plant weather the long hot summers. And it is a distance from any trees which may compete with its roots. I’ve already noted new growth, a very good indication.
The red climbing rose must be related to the infamous multi-floral rose common to my home in West Virginia. The plant sports killer thorns and in a full-sun location overpowers the walk path and any plantings in its vicinity. I cut the whips back as shown and moved the plant to a new spot with a bit less sun. The plant can grow around a supporting obelisk, and we will work hard to keep the thorny whips trimmed to the space.
We bought this plant based on the garden shop’s labeling and the blooms turned out to be flat rather than the fuller blooms I expected from examining the tag. Shawn has advocated season after season to keep it but agrees this is the last chance for such an aggressive plant. We can’t be afraid to uproot plants that do not meet expectations or that require an inordinate amount of tending.
One new addition to the front garden, taking the place of the hydrangea described above, is this stunning Black Diamond crepe myrtle. The dark black leaves contrast with bright red blooms and should perk up that section. Our son-in-law, Daniel, had an extra and asked if we had a spot for it. You betcha!
Fall is a good time to get trees in the ground in zone 7. With adequate water and access to rich soil the roots should settle in and begin expanding before the freeze of winter. Don’t forget to add a layer of mulch around the perimeter but keep the mulch away from the trunk itself.
We planted a new camellia, October Magic Dawn, close the curb to share with the neighbors but far enough into the garden to protect it from roving hounds looking for a rest facility. Ugh! Do you have that problem in your garden? Some pet owners do not realize the harmful effects of their pet’s waste.
I leave many spent blooms in place for winter interest. Dried cone flowers jutting up from the snow may offer a meal to a hungry bird if a seed or two remains. Our salvia plants continue to bloom and those stalks will be left till spring. On a warm March day I will invest a morning clearing debris and preparing for the next season but for now the garden will look lived in for the gray months of December through February..
The scraggly basil needs to go to the compost bin now, though. We planted quite a bit and let it flower to benefit bees and butterflies. I chuckle when I see Shawn heading from the kitchen to the door with her scissors in hand. That usually means I either need a haircut or she has something good percolating on the stove and needs fresh herbs to make the meal pop. Have you tried growing basil in a pot on your deck? Have you visited the herb section of your favorite garden shop to marvel over all the varieties of basil available to adventurous gardeners?
Our leaves are falling so collecting leaves is a constant opportunity for fresh air and exercise. For some the leaves represent an opportunity to complain but not for this lover of the soil. Gardeners, the leaves from your deciduous trees represent the easiest way to build your soil, create your own mulch, and in general improve the health of your garden. Follows this link to my NicholsNotes site to read how I compost fall leaves.
The pile is growing but our harvest will peak in early December and continue sporadically through the winter. We have some oak trees that retain their leaves until spring so raking is a winter sport, too.
Here are the remnants of last season’s leaves. One year ago this pile looked like the leaf pile above. The rich black compost allows me to put the roses to bed for winter with a generous blanket of new mulch. After many years of using leaves in the garden my soil is worm-filled, deep black in color, and smells like dirt ought to smell.
And finally what will I plant in our indoor garden under the grow light? Will we have a decent crop? Well, I know that the harvest will be exactly zero for anything I do not plant so I better get back to it.