Gardening turns to game of wait-and-see

Never ever have I had a garden take such a leisurely farewell. Well, maybe last year’s. Maybe I need to get used to leisurely.  

Most of the annuals are still blooming, granted they are on their last hurrah. The foxgloves (Foxy) are blooming again after being deadheaded weeks ago. The James McFarland lilac’s second round of blooms are going to seed. Usually they don’t bloom all of the way out let alone go to seed. Interesting. 

All of the shrubs put on a massive amount of growth in the last month. The roses are huge. All of them: Hansa, Theresa Bugnet, Heidi, r. glauca, William Baffin.  

The question here is what will happen to all of this tender new growth when the cold hits. Is it sturdy enough to withstand the truth? We’ll see. …

 In the meantime: the Brussels sprouts are still out there. I know, you are thinking, “Of course, they are still out there, right where they are supposed to be, waiting for a couple of freezes to sweeten them.” Good for you. I don’t have the patience to wait. And I have yet to notice any difference in taste before or after a freeze. I want the garden to be all neat and tidy before the freeze/snow that will inevitably make its mark. There are two kale plants left out there, we are eating kale daily, and believe me, enough is enough. 

I planted the garlic. I was going to wait until Oct.1 but I just had to do it. My fingers are crossed that they won’t rot. If you have yet to get yours in the ground keep in mind the bigger the clove the bigger the bulb. Skip the teeny tiny cloves. Eat them. 

I did so many experiments this season; so few of them worked. Live and learn. The perennial seeds that I started the end of July matured into tidy little starts. This, of course, presented a quandary: what to do with them now?  Each one has been transplanted into a three-inch square container (I really love that size) and set into a flat. I have three of these loaded flats. My recourse is a raised bed where they are all nestled into the soil and covered with a double layer of floating row cover. I’m actually afraid to look under the cover for fear of what the slugs have done. Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot. Once again — we’ll see. 

The peonies are not ready to cut down. They should be looking far more aged than they do. The foliage is still supplying nutrition to the root system so hold off on cutting yours until it looks really and truly spent. Once cut, burn it or take a trip to the landfill. 

I like to leave the spent foliage in place, bent over the root crowns of the perennials. This forms a natural mulch. Granted, I’ll add spruce boughs when and if the weather freezes up or the snow comes and stays. Some gardeners take pleasure in cleaning up their perennial beds in the fall but I really think they are missing out on excellent mulch. Nothing like the plant taking care of itself. When spring comes is the time for me to do a major clean up. 

Don’t be tempted to do any shrub or tree pruning now either. Wait until late winter to accomplish this most daunting of tasks. There is a good argument to wait until there is new growth in the spring so you can see what made it through the winter. It will then be obvious what is broken, or just plain dead and ready to be removed. 

I have in the past suggested that you cut down your spent raspberry canes in the fall and this is so very wrong and, I do believe, the reason why my berries gradually failed. The canes, although they look dead, continue to supply nutrition to the root system as the winter progresses. Spring is the time to remove last year’s canes. 

I’m on the lookout for high bush cranberries. I really need them in this landscape. The deep red leaves this time of year would be a welcome addition. I wanted them 16 years ago when I was first developing this plot but somehow I got sidetracked and need to make a stab at getting some. I think now is as good a time as any to get a few of them in the ground. 

We are almost to the end of the tomatoes in the greenhouse. The Black Japanese Trefele was the clear winner. The Brandywine failed me completely although the seedlings that I shared with others are doing just fine. Oh no, not mine. The two cherries were dreadful and never to be repeated. Next year. …

We are down to the last of the cucumbers and that will be that for the greenhouse. I like to have fresh compost in the bins in the fall so all is ready to go in the spring. An early start has been key for me. I don’t see any benefit to keeping the greenhouse going later in the season. When we start to run short on daylight the plants are no longer interested — nor am I.  

If you have hold-over plants like tuber begonias, fuchsias or geraniums — be thinking about hardening them off in reverse. Mine are now on the covered porch. The next step will be to take them downstairs for the winter. Once the begonias are dry I’ll take them out of their pots and store them in paper bags on a shelf. The geranium will live on the window sill and continue to bloom most of the winter. 

If you have herbs that you want in the house, get them potted up and bring them gradually into the house. Be sure to watch for aphids. 

 I am going to continue to weed and deadhead annuals, although there are some I have intentionally left to go to seed so there might be some of their progeny in the spring. I will continue to garden until there is snow. Why not? Any reason to be outdoors.  

For this growing season I will leave off with my pithy observations. Thanks for reading, see you next year.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener. She has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.