gardenphyllisophyBy Phyllis Galowitz

The summer is ending as it began, with cold rainy days, interspersed with a few hours of sun. It’s hard to believe that just a couple of days ago, on September 12th, the temperature was near 90 degrees and I was working in the garden, planting the rose of Sharon that Barbara and Bob gave me from a division of theirs. Just as I finished burying the roots, the sky opened up and the rain poured down, settling that bush and the irises that I also planted firmly in their bed. This morning it was 37 degrees! I’ve had to carry the potted hibiscus tree into the house every night because of the sudden drop in temperature.

The leaves on the sugar maples have already turned yellow and the burning bush is becoming redder every day. Autumn joy is getting darker pink and Joe-Pye weed has lost it’s beautiful, wood-rose color and is turning brown. As I look out the window at the hill across the road, the shades of green on the trees have become what will very soon be a blaze of color. Now they are soft golds, apricot and pink.

It’s time to bring houseplants indoors, which means washing the windows to make sure the plants get as much light as possible. Be sure to give the plants a good watering before bringing them in to rid them of insects and repot those that have outgrown their pots, using fresh potting soil. It’s also a good idea to take cuttings of annuals like impatiens, begonias, coleus and geraniums that will root easily, make attractive houseplants and can be planted back in the garden next spring. Or, just enjoy their bloom for a few more weeks indoors. Don’t overwater your houseplants and don’t water in cloudy or rainy weather, as they won’t get sufficient light indoors to dry and will become waterlogged. Give them a light boost of fertilizer, unless the new soil already contains some.

In late fall, when frost hardens the soil, cover strawberry plants with straw (not hay, which may contain weed seeds), or shredded leaves.

Rake up fallen fruit and pick all ripe fruit and fallen leaves to keep pests and diseases from over-wintering and having to resort to chemicals to destroy them when they emerge.

Protect shrubs and trees with deer repellent or strong-smelling soap, hung from branches, if not deer fencing.

Plant spring flowering bulbs until the ground freezes, mixing fertilizer and bone meal into the soil. Then fertilize in early spring again, when the shoots begin to break through the soil but before they flower. Bulbs require full sun but usually flower before trees leaf out so they can be planted under trees. Water the bulbs after planting to settle the soil and provide moisture to start rooting. Plant bulbs behind plants on the front edge of a bed so that the flowers coming up in front of the bulbs will hide the yellowing foliage. These must remain for several weeks until they die back to manufacture food for the next year’s growth.

Dig summer flowering bulbs, like dahlias, when the leaves turn yellow and store them in a container with peat moss, sand, perlite or vermiculite, in temperatures between 60-68 degrees with low humidity. (I store them in a closet in my unheated basement.)

Plant garlic in late October, each clove pointed end up, 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart. When the ground is frozen, add a thick layer of mulch. Remove most of the mulch when the garlic leaves begin to grow in the summer. Add fertilizer and keep well-watered. Fertilize again in one month. Harvest sometime in July, when about half of the leaves have yellowed.

Divide iris and lilies, peonies and tall phlox.

Are you exhausted? I am!  ~