I’m looking at my calendar, but still find it hard to believe that we’ve come to the beginning of October. How can that be? Wasn’t it July just the other day? Guess we need to “bite the bullet” and put the garden to bed.
Some perennials do fine with being cut down now, but chrysanthemums are not one of them. They are marginally hardy in our area and have a better chance of making it through the winter if they aren’t cut back until next spring. Others, such as coneflowers, can be left standing as they make great little bird feeders through the winter. I’m sure the birds will thank you for it.
Be sure to get those spring bulbs purchased and planted now. It helps to sprinkle some bulb food into the hole at planting time. Mix it in thoroughly before placing the bulb in its new home. Water and stand back while nature takes its course. It’s a good idea to plant some of these spring bloomers where they can be seen from a window as the weather may still be chilly when they put on their flower show.
For an added treat, you may want to purchase a few extra bulbs to “force.” This isn’t hard to do, it just takes time. Put several bulbs into a good sized flower pot. Then store it in the refrigerator for about 12 weeks. At the end of that time, the bulbs will have received the equivalent winter chill they would have gotten outdoors. Bring them into a warm room and they should soon start growing tops. Place the pot in a bright but cool window area and enjoy the show.
If you have “summered” any houseplants outdoors, be sure to bring those into the house. Most of them don’t enjoy temperatures that get down below 50 degrees. Holiday cactus plants should be showing tiny mouse ears which will grow into flower buds. These used to be called either Christmas or Easter cactus, but now have all been grouped into the category called “holiday” cactus.
Now that the hummingbirds have flown the coop, take down, clean and store those feeders. On the other hand, a lot of our seed-eating birds remain here all winter, so be sure to keep their feeders full. They appreciate suet feeders too as that type of food helps to keep them warm.
Some of you may remember the nasty surprise we got in October of 2009 when the temperature went down to 15 degrees on Columbus Day morning, Oct. 12. We saw NO pretty fall foliage that year as the leaves immediately turned from green to brown and fell off the trees. Hopefully we won’t see a repeat of that sad performance any time soon.
While we’re on the subject of trees, the time to prune any limbs is after the leaves fall. That advice holds all winter, until the new leaves come on in the spring. On another note, watch the weather if you still have tomatoes outdoors.
Once you’ve applied the last of the season lawn fertilizer, you can drain the gas from the lawnmower and tuck it away for winter. Clean up your garden tools so they’ll be ready to go next spring. You’ll be glad you did all these chores when its time to use them again. Before long you’ll need to gas up the snow blower. That’s a nasty thought, huh? Sorry.
• • •
Elaine Cerny has gardened most of her life, starting in 4-H. She has belonged to garden clubs in three states and is currently serving as secretary for the River City Gardeners Club in Post Falls. Her column appears in The Press every other Sunday from early March until late October.