Ready for a Freeze

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

A hard freeze is expected for tonight, and I am ready. The morning of October 20 would be later than usual for this event.

This has been a dandy October, weather wise. It has given me the time I need to prepare for winter, and put the garden to bed. This involves a number of activities.

Throughout this month, it has been plenty windy. Beth and I have been the recipient of many neighborhood leaves. We have mowed three times now, with more bags of leaves than I can remember. The old perennial bed on the west side of the garden has been heavily mulched as a result. Later on this fall, I’ll spread the mulch evenly by hand, and search out the perennials so they aren’t too heavily covered. The same will happen again early in the spring, as by late march, they will need exposure to light and air to begin their growth process. With an inch of rain on October 12, the heavy mulch will also protect the ground from drying out if we have a dry winter. I’m sure we’ll have to mow at least two more times. The herb garden could use more mulch, and we’ll bag the rest for mulching the tomatoes and peppers next summer. The mulching effort around the fruit trees is also complete.

All of the peppers have been picked, given away, eaten, or frozen. Some of them were in pots. I have dumped the pot out into the south end of the garden–an area where soil compaction signaled to me that the soil could use some amendment. The potting soil is very loose and “friable” and will mix well with the present soil when tilled in next spring. The tomatoes were pulled, and since they were sickly, they were placed in a lawn bag for disposal. The beans have been pulled, the kohlrabe have been pulled and picked, and the carrots have all been dug. That refuse will remain on the garden. It will have already partially broken down by spring, and will be tilled under without incident. In the herb garden, I have picked a large bag for the freezer, and eaten innumerable basil salads. The rest can freeze. The chives are tasty again, and since they are perennial, they will need no work. Some of the garlic I planted earlier is showing sprouts.

Beth and I have filled the sun room with plants. The geraniums came in first, followed by the Christmas cactus, alovera, and kafir lilies. The fruit trees came in last Sunday, followed by the oleanders on Monday. The forced bulbs are still on the patio table, as they could use the additional chilling the cool autumn weather will provide. I will not carry them into the sun room until it really gets cold, and the soil begins to freeze. I have noticed that some of the Braille labels have fallen off, so I’ll have a few mysteries on my hands. Identification will be easy, but I won’t know the cultivars involved. This is not so bad, except for the new cultivars I am trying. I have never forced fringed tulips, and I have one pot for Jack, and one for me. The same goes for the “match point” cultivar. Some of the tried and true cultivars, such as the Easter egg mixed tulips, really need no label. Since it has been so nice, the paperwhite narcissus should be growing, but are not–a new mystery for me. They usually bloom as early as Thanksgiving.

Beth has placed two new plants in the sun room this year. The first is a large pot of pentas, which she bought at Earl May. They have tiny flower clusters, and as I was carrying it into the sun room last night, I noticed it is loaded with blooms. “If it grows it grows, if it dies it dies” is our attitude on the two new potted plants.

The second plant is one that Beth purchased at The Woodsmith store last spring. It has finely cut ferny leaves with yellow daisy-like flowers. Beth is partial to composita family plants, and this one has similar leaves to the pyrethrum, or painted daisy that is a perennial in my garden. Its blooms are a little smaller, without the pronounced center you would find in the painted daisies. Its tag is gone, so we are calling it “the woodsmith plant.”

The mandevila, which did so well in the sun room last year, has become rampant, and Beth has decided to let Jack Frost give it a “natural death.”

There will still be outdoor work to do, as we could likely have more moderate weather. Several pots need to be brought in after the plants in them freeze and die. The marigolds are blooming in such profusion by the mailbox that I don’t have the heart to pull them. We have five mums which will require watering; the rain barrel needs to be prepared for winter, and the garden hoses need to be placed in the garage soon. The nectarine tree is not dormant, and it won’t be brought into the garage until November.

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