Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October in the Garden

The recent rain has made it hard to get into the garden, but plants are so happy with the recent turn of weather. You can see it in lawn grass, which is greening up all over town and in the renewed vigor of some of our late bloomers like Anemones, Hydrangeas and the lesser known Franklinia alatamaha.

So, when the opportunity presents itself, preparing for next spring is the focus of our garden tasks this month. This means raking leaves, planting garlic, mowing the lawn and planting your spring flowering bulbs! October is still a great time to plant trees and shrubs, the ground typically wont freeze until mid December so plants should have several weeks of root growth before going completely dormant.

Spring Flowering Bulbs, if you haven’t made your selections yet, there are lots of good deals and places to get bulbs. The key to selecting healthy bulbs is to pick ones that have weight to them. Pick your bulbs as you would an onion or clove of garlic – meaty, not mushy or dry. And remember to augment your selection of Daffodils, Crocus and Tulips with other beauties. For easy April blooms try: Chionodoxa, Scilla and Muscari. For May to June blooms try: Alliums, Hyacinthoides, Leucojum and Eremurus.

And if you buy more bulbs than you can finish planting, remember to store them in a cold (not freezing!), dry location for the winter, like an unheated basement or garage. Then in the early spring you can pot them up and force them for indoor bloom.

Pot up Amaryllis bulbs for Holiday blooms. Many species of Amaryllis take 8 weeks or so to bloom, and be careful not to over water those bulbs while waiting for growth to start!

Keep an eye out for the Asian Longhorn Beetle (ALB), not to be confused with the Western Conifer Seedbug who may be trying to over winter in your attic (like Ladybugs). The Asian Longhorn Beetle is about 1” long, a black body with white spots and long antennae. This pest attacks and kills healthy trees such as Maple, Birch, Poplar, Horse Chestnut and others. For more information on how to identify this pest or how to report a sighting go to : http://massnrc.org/pests/alb/

Mildew has been a big problem this year, especially on Monarda, Lilacs, Paeonias, and Phlox treat those infected plants with a fungicide to prevent its return next year.

Lawns are bouncing back from the heat and lack of rain this summer, an application of fertilizer now will help your existing lawn grass to rebuild its stores before the onset of winter. It is still mild enough to seed bare spots in your lawn, especially now that the crabgrass is dying back. Keep mowing your lawn until it stops growing, which can be well into November. Rake leaves early and often before they get matted and moldy, this can save a lot of lawn related headaches.

Clean, repot and bring in your houseplants. Keep an eye out for freezing temperatures, but I leave my Christmas cactus out as long as possible to try to get it to bloom at Christmas (rather than Thanksgiving). The Christmas Cactus needs 12 to 14 hours of dark each day to trigger the set of blooms, and there is some evidence to show that bright outdoor lights may upset this process so be sure your plants are shaded from artificial light to ensure good bud set.

Thank you to everyone who has sent in ‘Questions for Cory’, keep those great questions coming.

Q. There are some very pretty pink flowers growing out of a stand of Pachysandra (see attached), what are they?

A. They are a beautiful cultivar of Colchicum autumanale, probably “Waterlily”. This bulb, often called Fall Crocus, is best planted among ground cover as this bulb has an unusual growth cycle where by the foliage appears in the spring, without the blooms; and the blooms appear in the fall, without the foliage. A good ground cover companion masks this seasonal inconsistency. They tend to perform best in areas of rich, well-drained soil where they don’t get disturbed.