By Roger Erpelding
As we get into the middle of autumn, it is time to wind down the outdoor work and begin thinking about indoor gardening activities. This fall we have been blessed, or cursed, with an inordinate amount of leaves. The strong northwest, west and southwest winds have brought forth our neighbors bounty into our front yard. Beth and I have mowed and raked leaves on numerous occasions, and we need to do so again.
Our technique is pretty simple–Beth mows, and I bag. I have piles of leaves on the old perennial bed on the west side of the garden, and before freeze up I need to distribute them so they are even, and no plant is smothered. In the meantime, the bags of leaves, which will mulch the garden next summer, are piling up under the eaves.
Due to confined space Beth and I rake in the back. This is a job I can do, but we have found it more efficient if Beth rakes, and I bag. In the patio area near the grill, I use a broom to push the leaves into piles on the concrete, and bag them.
The rain barrel is put to bed. In early October I shut off the connector from the down spout, cutting off its water. I used a variety of containers to water the bulbs that were chilling on the patio table. Beth also used water for her indoor orchids. Around November 1, all the water was gone from the barrel, so we placed a cover on the barrel, and set a brick on top to hold the cover in place.
Even the hammock was carried into the garage last night, so no more “lazy time” outdoors until spring; something to look forward to.
Each Saturday morning I water the sun room plants. Beth has noticed that some of the tangerines are turning color, but they are still very firm; thus it’ll be awhile before they are ready to eat. The Christmas cactus has buds, and depending on the environment, we will have flowers sometime in December. If the weather remains moderate I will hold off turning on the heater as long as I can. This means a cooler sun room, with a slower growth rate for the cactus buds. If it gets below 15 degrees outdoors the sun room will need its supplemental heat, resulting in a temperature near 50 at nights, which will promote more rapid growth.
On November 13 all of the forced bulbs were removed from the patio and placed in the sun room. The iris reticulata and paperwhite narcissus were moved into the kitchen, as they are already sprouting. I was hoping for paperwhite flowers by Thanksgiving, but this is not going to occur. After only a couple of days in the kitchen, it is obvious that these sprouts have begun a rapid growth. The small iris will not take long to bloom after sprouting; they are early bloomers in spring, so they will react quickly to the warmer kitchen temperatures. When bringing the bulbs in on Sunday, I also noticed that the crocus are beginning to sprout. The tulips show no sign of growth, but a couple of pots of hyacinths have roots coming out of the holes in the bottoms of their pots–definitely a wonderful sign! One of the cultivars, delph blue, is showing sprouts, but I will keep it in the cooler sun room to slow its growth.
Each year Beth and I experiment with something new in the sun room. Last year it was the mandevilla, which met a natural death this fall when we experienced our first freeze. This year we have two new pots along the south wall. The first is called “Pentis.” It has small flower clusters, and spent the summer on the west side of the house in a large pot. Beth thought it was just too nice to let freeze; it is doing well so far. The other plant is unknown to us. We just know that Beth bought it at The Woodsmith Store last May. It has woody stems, fine ferny leaves, and yellow composite daisy-like flowers. So, we just call it “The Woodsmith Bush.” Beth trimmed it up last Sunday while I was bringing in bulbs. Its fate is uncertain, although we know for sure it is not cold-hardy outdoors.
And yes, on November 12, my first spring catalog arrived. Last night Hawkeye Bob and I began to read it. Time was short, so it was a very quick read. Next week when he comes I’ll have the slate and stylus ready, and begin making my list. There are already three varieties of peppers that have piqued my interest. This mail order catalog, Gurney’s, has sent me nice looking plants in the past; I will probably reward them with another pepper plant order. And yes, I’ll be trying some different types this year. One of my interests, “Lipstick,” is a pimento type pepper–a little tougher to grow, but well worth it. The sweet bananas are always a hit–this tried and true cultivar is on the list. HURRY SPRING!!!