October time to relax, but not too much
by Ronella Stagner, Gardening Columnist
Sep 30, 2009 | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
October, the month for goblins and ghosts who parade around the streets and the month for admiring the wonderful colors of the fall leaves of Indian summer. The chores of fall are mostly done, or almost, and now you have the time to sit on the porch and be glad to be a part of another cycle of seasons. Aren’t we glad to be a part of it?

Keep mowing your lawn as long as new growth continues to be apparent. This not only keeps the turf looking well, but also improves its condition for next year. Long matted grass that has lain on the lawn all winter means trouble in the spring when mowing begins. Keep the lawn free of leaves and other litter during the winter. The grass smothers easily at this time.

The time for winter protection of roses comes about the end of October. A reader called me this week because I had given her a little information about piling up dirt around the roses but did not explain enough. So, if this is something you already know, go to the next paragraph. At about the time of really cold weather and strong winter winds, pile up dirt around the crown of your roses. The crown is where the original rose was grafted to a stronger root such as the wild rose. This, along with cutting back branches to about 18 inches or so, will keep winter winds from snapping the plant back and forth, breaking off the little feeder roots. I always suggest that the dirt come from another place rather than being dug up around the rose since that only disturbs the root system. When spring comes, you can remove the dirt from the crown and put it somewhere else. If the crown is kept covered after spring warmer weather, the graft root will put up long shoots that are worthless and will ruin the original rose. If I have not made this clear enough, I’m not surprised because it’s hard to give a long explanation in one paragraph. That’s why every rose grower needs a good book about the care of roses.

If your climbing roses are in an exposed location, tie them up firmly with broad strips of rags so that the wind will not beat them against the trellis or fence and bruise the bark. Hopefully, you have pruned the climbers so that there will not be a mass of useless branches to catch the wind. As you can see, it’s not the cold that does the damage, it’s the wind.

Mulching and watering are the most important things you can do at this time. A good three inches of mulch has saved many perennial gardens. As often stated in this column, I prefer cypress mulch simply because roaches and other large insects stay away from cypress; thus you don’t have little garter snakes roaming through the mulch looking for dinner. Also I find it attractive. Your azaleas and rhododendrons, however, need a more acid mulch such as chopped oak leaves or pine needles. If you don’t water these two enough in fall, they may not bloom much for you in spring.

It’s very important that your foundation plants go into winter with plenty of moisture and that means you must water them well for a few weeks. Watering all perennials is important in fall but especially important for roses, astilbe, hostas and tall garden phlox.

For some of us older folk, fall has some very special memories and I would like to share my memories of fall at Ma and Pa’s. Wagon loads of pumpkins would go to the hog pens. All watermelons and cantaloupes would be brought in before the first frost. The dried beans and peas in grass sacks would be piled up for hulling later. My little fingers would make short work of that chore but oh, the sore fingers. There would be big piles of black walnuts drying and later the fun of cracking those walnuts on an old flat iron and my little hammer so Ma could make her wonderful walnut cakes and candy. My grandfather was a man who took great pleasure in gathering berries and nuts for Ma. We had hazel nuts, walnuts and hickory nuts. He grew popcorn and all this to make life more pleasurable. Do you remember popcorn balls made from home grown sorghum molasses, which Pa also made. On the farm, life was just as busy in fall as in summer. However, Pa always had time for reading and Ma always had time for her quilts and they both read the Courier Journal from front to back. During good times and bad, they always managed to subscribe to that paper. Ma always had time for keeping up appearances. She looked as if she never did any dirty work in her life and always smelled like Watkins lemon soap which I love to smell today. Pa was tall and slim with beautiful thick white hair which he kept clean and well cut, my mother being his barber. Our creek had a nice pool for his bathing at the end of a long hot day which was a convenience.

Most important of all, they always had time for their beloved little granddaughters. Would that they could know how precious their memories are.

(Thanks for the calls and please don’t hesitate to call at 270-522-3632. My address is Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY 42211.)
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