Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sunny and Warm, so GET TO WORK !

So, after the rainfest we had in September (wettest September on record in the Pacific NW) and some seriously stormy weather in the first 2 weeks of October, we are cycling around to something just a little more comfortable. Can anyone say 'perfect'? 
Portland/Salem weather forecast Oct 15 - 21

And that's good because there is so much to do in the garden right now. Major clean-up is underway, and there is no telling how long this fine weather will last, so I better get busy. Most of the annuals have succumbed to the ravages of old age, coupled with cold nights and driving rain. Zinnia heads are soggy sad. The perennials are dying back, sending their energy to their roots to fortify themselves for winter. Some of the hostas have bright yellow fall color, but the leaves have started to show the dry brown spotting of decay. Dying stems are getting all tangled up in each other and browning leaves are dangling, falling to the ground, Weeds that have been hidden all summer under major leafiness are now exposed, having patiently waited for their moment in the sun, and are ready to run with it. So things are starting to look pretty shabby. I never really think of it as unsightly, it is just nature doing its thing, and even though I am intrigued by the decaying process, I do try to keep things somewhat tidy and keep the diseases at bay as much as possible. My October garden To-Do list is long, and I likely won't get to it all, but there are some projects that have made it to my Must-Do list.  

Must Do List  

Cut back dead and dying annuals and vegetables. 

Tidy up perennials, but leave any seed heads on for the birds, 

Lightly rake up most of the debris.  

Weed ! Now that much of the foliage is gone throughout the garden, it is easy to see the miscellaneous weeds (lots of oxalis!) that was hiding underneath it all. The soil is moist and many of the weeds are young  and so they are easy to pull. Spending a little time at it now will save major time later. Carefully dig and pull any bindweed. 

Put anything obviously diseased and any perennial weeds into the compost-bin for pickup. 

Compost - it's ongoing, but there is so much to put in it this time of year. Keep a pile of woodier stuff seperate to add to pile-making, for aeration and carbon.    

Mulch! Probably the most important fall activity for soil improvement. I have a couple of compost piles that I have been working for the last couple of months and they are just about ready to use. Even though there are still some twigs and straw and corn cobs recognizable, it will make great mulch as it is, bringing up oodles of worms to finish the job. It will have transformed into beautiful healthy soil by spring. 

Rake leaves  - mix into compost piles 

Rake leaves - stockpile them until there is enough to layer with 'green ' material. to make a 'hot' pile at least 3' high x 5' wide.   

Rake leaves - spread as mulch on the garden.  

Rake leaves - they just keep falling --     

One last lawn mowing - maybe.  


So things are winding down, but there are still flashes of color.


Coleus and Tuberous Begonia

Agastache 'Orange Nectar' 


I have been waiting all summer for this Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia) to bloom, and had almost given up on it. Admittedly, it got off a late start. In fact I'm kind of surprised that it is alive at all. Due to lack of overwintering space, it was left out in the cold, uncovered, all winter, in a large pot. I had resigned myself to thinking of it as an annual, and had given it up for dead. (Brugmansia is native to tropical areas of South America where it can become a large shrub or small tree, reaching from 10 to 36 feet. It needs winter protection here (zone 8) to do well.) But life is persistent, and in spite of my mistreatment, it sent a up a couple of small shoots very early on, and continued to grow, though not blooming, until finally culminating this week in a late show of these loveliest of trumpet flowers, all opening within a few days. There are still a few small flower buds forming, but certainly there is not enough heat or time for them to develop before cold envelopes them, so this is it. A wonderful late season surprise.   

Brugmansia in bloom, finally   


The pollinators are still at it, though l am seeing fewer and fewer of them. All summer long the yard was abuzz, but now, with fewer flowers, there is, of course, less nectar to go around. I have been seeing quite a bit of honeybee action at the hummingbird feeder, but the holes are too small for them to get to the sugar water. But this pretty little bee, a Halictid bee, (sometimes called a Sweat bee, as some species in this group are attracted to human sweat) is hard at work. She has an iridescent green head and thorax and a black and white striped abdomen. Very stylish. 

Little green bee (Halictid Bee) 


These 'Sungold' and 'Sweet 100' Cherry Tomatoes trained up against the south side of the house are still going strong. They are under the eaves of the house, and this, together with the warmth of the house, should keep them ripening for a while longer. And there are still a LOT of tomatoes on them. If  'Sungold', starting to drape down on the left, was stretched out, it would easily reach 12 feet.  


This pic was taken about a 2 months ago,
just as they were starting to ripen

Look at all these tomatoes in one cluster! 


I found the missing garlic! Have you ever put something away for safe keeping so well that you couldn't remember where it was ? That was my problem. I finally found them on the top shelf of a gardening shelf in the basement, right where I put them. Now I'm happy.  

There are 2 kinds of garlic in this picture. The 5 in front are a soft neck variety called 'Susanville'. The four in back are 'Kettle River Giant', with qualities of both hardneck and softneck. (I'm working on a Garlic page, to be posted soon, to explain all this in greater detail, plus a lot of cultural information.) They were the biggest of the bulbs, saved from our garlic harvest this last July. The ultimate size of the garlic bulb depends on, besides cultural conditions, the size of the cloves one starts with. 


Cloves all separated, spaced, and ready to plant !

Kettle River Giant  



'Till Later -  Happy Gardening !