It happens every year. Whine, whine, whine, gardening season is winding down, the winter is coming, we’re all going to die!!
I want so badly to be the sort of garden writer that composes eloquent, graceful pieces that encourage gardeners to appreciate the cooler seasons and respect the importance of the winter. The fact remains that I am a summer baby. While I understand and respect the seasons, I absolutely abhor the winter months and am full of anxiety as they approach. I spend much of the off season huddled up indoors counting the days until I can be outside in bare feet again. I would avoid going outdoors completely if I could. I am at my happiest when the sun is shining through the plants, the tomatoes are coming in, and I can run out into the garden to collect a few fresh herbs for dinner.
Wonderful smells. Warm soil. The cicadas in the trees. Fuck the winter and its all day five-oclock greyness, layering up like the Michelin Man just to take a walk around the block, and general malaise.
In lieu of my usual annual fall season meltdown, I thought I’d provide a recap of a few previous meltdowns. I’ll see you back here next month for the first snowfall of the season meltdown.
[Incidentally, I wrote the above and then went out to my garden to take a few pictures for the post. This colourful sedum was a good reminder that it's not all bad.]
The killing frost came a little early this year and I spent the weekend hustling plants inside and preserving up a storm. I don’t actually grow grapes, but one of the perks of living in an Italian neighbourhood is that they are everywhere. I’ve already made up two batches of jelly/jam (one pink and one Concord) and if I ever get through the legions of green tomatoes from the garden in time, I will surely try to do up a small batch of grape wine.
I don’t know whether to call this a jam or a jelly as it sits somewhere between the two. I included grape flesh but omitted the seeds and skins.
…if I were to start wearing this to presentations and appearances? It would solve the perennial problem of what to wear. I wonder if this is a media friendly red?
From Left to Right:
Top Row: 1. Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’ If only you could smell this chartreuse-leaved pineapple sage through the screen. Delicious. This one is definitely coming inside for the winter. 2. Sunflower ‘Vanilla Ice’ (Helianthus debilis) It’s a short, creamy white sunflower with a cheesy rapper name. There are times when the name of a specific variety leaves me with no choice but to grow it and this was one. 3. Tomato ‘Bali’ I have a thing for ribbed tomatoes and have made it my mission to grow them all. I quite liked this determinate variety and will definitely grow it again.
I’ve been hurriedly bringing all of my frost-sensitive houseplants indoors for the winter in a mad rush to beat the season. As always I am doing it at the last minute rather than drawing it out slowly. Many of you are in a similar boat so I thought I’d compile a checklist of things that I do in the process.
- Check all plants thoroughly for critters. Check underneath mulch, leaves, in the crevices between stems…
- Slugs, snails, sowbugs, and earwigs can cram themselves into the tiniest spots. Check all around containers, especially plastic pots and hanging baskets that have a crevice underneath the lip.
- To flush pests out of the soil: Add a few inches of water to a deep sink or bucket and mix in a few drops of natural dish soap (no chemicals or scents added). The unscented Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap works well for this. Set pots in the liquid for a couple of hours. I am often lazy and don’t bother doing this with all pots — just the ones that I know are problematic.
- To flush pests out of the soil: A few drops of neem oil can be added to the water as an alternative to soap.
- Scrub any outside dirt from the side of the pots while they have their turn in the soapy water.
- Lightly shower particularly dirty or pest-infested plants with a hose before bringing them inside.
- Scrub down empty pots with a scrub brush and lightly soapy warm water. Set aside to dry thoroughly before putting them away.
- Place a small piece of newspaper between stacked terracotta pots to keep them from sticking to one another.
- Prune off any dead or diseased leaves and stems and cut back hard any plants that will be going dormant through the winter months.