Yeah, it’s October, but start thinking Spring
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Oct 03, 2012 | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There are a few gardening chores that can’t be put off till spring. You need to start buying those bulbs you wished for last spring. It isn’t time to plant them yet. The garden centers put their bulbs out before time to plant them so you have choices.

The following are the times for planting bulbs. There is an old rule of thumb that hyacinths should be planted when the maple leaves begin to turn color. Now, this really works out just right. The time to plant the smaller bulbs is about the same time. However, don’t plant daffodils (jonquils) until the middle of October. But, the real hard and fast rule that must be heeded is that you can’t plant tulips until the end of November. The way to remember the date for planting tulips is that Thanksgiving is the time to plant. In rare cases, depending on the weather, you can plant up to January but don’t count on it. Any later, you might as well pitch the bulbs.

It is so tempting to cut your perennials back during early fall but do not give in to temptation. You should wait for a killing frost when the leaves turn brown. You can pull up those scraggly annuals if you want to clean up the flower beds. If the annuals have mildew, and zinnias usually do, do not put them in your compost. That just scatters the spores through the garden next spring or summer when you use the compost.

One thing that needs to be said for those of you who hate garden work in the cold and wind is that nothing drastic is going to happen if you don’t cut the brown perennials back before winter. They can wait till early spring when you are more in the mood. The exception is the hardy grasses. They must be cut back after a hard frost because the new leaves will come in very early in spring and then you can’t separate the old dead grass from the new green leaves.

More plants die each year because they didn’t get enough water in the fall than from the harsh cold winter. When we moved to northern Minnesota, I was amazed to find that the peonies were much larger with more blooms than in Kentucky. The same was true of lilacs. I was fortunate to buy a house that was built by a woman who was a great flower lover. She and her husband got too old to take care of their house and we were lucky enough to get it. Her rose bed was very large and I had to ask other rose fanciers in the area to find out how to take care of the roses. The other plants took care of themselves. In very cold climates, roses must be protected and one way was to place Styrofoam cones over each rose, after it was cut back to about a foot, and hill up around it with dirt. Another way was to dig a trench, lay the rose down sideways in the trench and cover it, except for the very top of the rose, with dirt. Then in spring, set the rose upright and put the dirt back to the usual height. I never lost a rose while I lived in that house. I did, however, have one problem in the flower beds. I promised the old man who had to move, that I would not kill his wife’s black snake. She had died before we moved there and I had to contend with that snake. He lived in a round rubber drain pipe which the old man had partially covered with dirt. I would see him sunning himself, the snake, not the old man, on pretty days. Occasionally, he would try to get into the house through a screen door to the sun porch. Eventually, I got used to him but I wouldn’t say he was a pet. It always startled me when I walked up on him. I called him Mrs. Carlson after the lady who petted him. He disappeared one day after a vacant lot next door was mowed by a big tractor and mower. I can’t say I was sorry.

Some reminders for fall gardening: you fertilize broadleaf evergreens AFTER the first killing frost; any earlier encourages new growth. Do not feed roses from now on but do spray after each rain with a fungicide to prevent black spot and also continue to keep them well watered and mulched.

If you would like to have an early start on some annuals, try sowing some of the hardier ones this fall. Some of these are larkspur, the annual poppies, sweet alyssum, ageratum, cornflower and cosmos. If they come through, you will gain considerable time; if not, the seed lost will amount to little.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632. I loved the call from Hope who takes care of nighborhood cats. I enjoyed her stories of different cats and kittens which she had befriended. Thank you, Hope.

If you would like a copy of my book, “Going Through the Garden”, send a check for $13.50 to Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY. 42211.
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