Tuesday, October 15, 2019

October 15,2019- frosty weather

Hi Gardeners

Well it had to happen; we had a good hard frost here last night, actually a freeze. I picked all the pretty dahlia flowers last night and I have a big bouquet of sun now. Bugs had gone to bed in them and they came crawling out as they warmed up. That’s the bad part of late fall bouquets.

I forced myself to walk past the begonias left in the pots on the deck last night. I had dug two more the night before and brought them in.  I just do not have any more room inside.  Actually, some things didn’t look too bad today despite the freeze, the impatiens are gone but the begonias are just a little damaged looking. The snapdragons on the porch looked fine.  I know the temp here went down to 31 but I don’t know how long it was below freezing.

We are going to have several days of rain and cold weather and after that I will be better able to assess what is left in the garden.  I still have to dig the dahlias and there are some other garden tasks left to do, like plant bulbs.  I planted some snowdrops, a yellow fritillaria and some bulbs called Ipheion (spring starflower) ‘Starry Nights’ Saturday. I made a row of these just in front of the deck where they will show up well in spring.

I also planted two Itoh peonies, the yellow one called “Bartzella’.  This is the third time I have planted this peony.  The first two times I ordered them from companies I shall not name, and I got tiny root sections, last year the piece was almost cut in two besides being small. They didn’t grow. This year I ordered one Itoh peony from John Scheepers Bulbs and I actually got two in the package for the same price.  And both of these were nice root clumps.  Maybe they will grow this time.

I am also pleased with the bulbs I got from ColorBlends, which I still must plant. Their bulbs are always large and nice looking. And they included a pretty orange scarf as a bonus. I have 125 tulips to plant and 50 windflowers. That’s much fewer bulbs than I have planted the last few years, but the beds are getting full.  ColorBlends sells the nicest tulip and daffodil bulbs I have ever seen.  They sell in larger quantities and have a minimum order but if you need bulbs theirs are great.

The apples are ripening. I made a big pot of apple butter yesterday.  It’s a day my husband waits for all year.  Making apple butter in the crock pot is easy.  You peel, core and chop enough apples to fill the pot.  Add brown sugar, I use about 3 cups to my 6-quart crock pot, you can adjust that. Do not add water or juice, it isn’t necessary in the crock pot.

Let the apples cook until they turn to mush.  As they begin to thicken stir in the spices you like.  I use cinnamon and generally a bit of cloves.  Some add nutmeg or allspice.  Taste, being careful not to burn your tongue and adjust spices as needed.

The apple butter is done when it is so thick it sticks to the spoon when you turn it over.  You may want to mix it a bit until it’s perfectly smooth.  I let it cool just a bit and then pour it in a clean canning jar and store it in the refrigerator.  You can also freeze it or can it.

I also made an apple cake. I use a spice cake mix, using apple juice instead of the water it calls for and applesauce in place of the oil.  I add a cup of finely diced apple.  Bake as directed.  Then while it’s still warm spread a can of Dulce de leche over the cake. (Find that by the sweetened condensed milk in the store. It’s like caramel). Let it cool and add a cream cheese frosting.  I use a package of softened cream cheese blended with 3 cups of powdered sugar, with just a touch of apple juice to make it soft enough to spread.

Harvesting and storing potatoes

If you haven’t harvested your potatoes yet it’s time to do so.  They can stay in the ground until it freezes but as the ground gets colder it can change the flavor of the potatoes. Animals like voles will also eat them as other food gets scarce.  So, choose a bright sunny day and dig them up.  Don’t wash the potatoes you dig, spread them out in a dark warm place and let the soil dry on them and then brush it off.  Do wash them before preparing them to eat.

Don’t leave potatoes in the sun after you dig them for more than a few hours. This may cause them to green and green potatoes are not good for you. If you cut potatoes when digging them set the cut ones aside and use them first, after washing them well. Potato skins will get tougher and thicker as they age in storage.
russet type potatoes
Potatoes like root cellar conditions for storage, cool temperatures around 45 degrees, dark, moderate humidity. Too cool conditions will cause the starch in potatoes to turn to sugar and make them taste a bit different. They are fine to eat, however. Light will cause potatoes to sprout and turn green.  Sprouts can be knocked off and the potatoes are fine to eat unless they are green. Green potatoes should not be eaten.  When potatoes turn green, they are high in solanine – a poison. 

Never store potatoes near apples or they will soften and sprout.  Don’t wash them before storage and remove any molded, cut or soft potatoes before storage.  Periodically check potatoes for rotting – your nose will tell you before you see it.  Remove rotting potatoes so they don’t cause others to rot.  Potatoes in good storage conditions will last up to 6 months.

Salvaging green tomatoes to ripen inside

If you didn’t get a hard frost yet and you still have green tomatoes, you may want to consider bringing some inside to finish ripening. That is a way you can extend your enjoyment of fresh garden tomatoes after cold weather hits. Tomatoes are a fruit that will continue to ripen after picking if they have matured enough. These tomatoes won’t taste quite as good as the ones ripened on the vine, but they will be better than most you buy at the store.

Tomatoes will stop ripening outside after a hard frost and turn to mush after a freeze. When you know one of those events is near it’s time to salvage as many tomatoes as you can.  Pick all tomatoes that have even the slightest sign of ripening. This may be indicated by a lightening in color and a slight softening.  Even full sized, hard green tomatoes will often ripen inside.  Pick those tomatoes.

Be careful handling the fruits as bruising may cause rotting instead of ripening.  Don’t bring in insect damaged fruit or fruit with bottom rot or severe cracking.  Bring the fruits inside to a warm place, never refrigerate them. Some people swear by lining the green tomatoes up on a sunny windowsill with a little space between each.  Others wrap each tomato in a piece of tissue or newspaper and store in a dark place.  Tomatoes will ripen either way.

I wrap the greenest tomatoes to store and set the ones closest to being ripe on the windowsill to finish ripening.  Periodically I check the wrapped tomatoes for signs of ripening and move some to the windowsill. There have been times when I have had tomatoes all the way up to Christmas with this method.

Gardeners should inspect stored tomatoes at least once a week and remove any that are rotting.  And of course, you could always eat the tomatoes green- as in fried green tomatoes or green tomato salsa or pie.

Growing hemp, the all-purpose plant

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the growing of hemp across much of the US, and this year many farmers displayed great interest in growing the crop, especially because the traditional crops they are growing are being hit hard by the trade war. Farmers need to register to grow the crop or to provide processing facilities and there’s some paperwork and rules to get familiar with. In Michigan there were 541 grower registrations this year.  It’s estimated that over 32,000 acres of hemp were planted.  Across the US over 500,000 acres of hemp were expected to be planted this year.

But after a long period of being illegal to grow in most states and government research on the plant prohibited, people are scrambling to find good advice on growing the crop. While it’s been grown for a long time in other countries, and even in some US states, most American growers face steep learning curves.  US soils and weather are different across the country. And different uses of hemp require somewhat different growing approaches.

Hemp seed and plants can be difficult to get. Equipment that is used for other crops often must be modified for hemp production. Markets are still new and volatile. US universities and ag research stations are scrambling to get the information farmers need. But many state Extension offices are now offering some help for hemp growers, including Michigan State.  (They still won’t help you grow marihuana, even if its legal in your state.)

Hemp and marihuana are basically the same plant, Cannabis sativa, but hemp won’t get you high. Hemp looks like marihuana and smells like it, but has little THC, the chemical compound that makes you feel good. To be legal it must contain less than .3 psychoactive THC.  And state or federal AG officials do test the crops. Hemp does contain CBD, a chemical compound thought to be good for many medical uses. CBD oil is a hot commodity so many people who are growing hemp are doing it to produce CBD oil.

There are hundreds of varieties of cannabis on the market.  They contain different levels of the chemicals CBD and THC.  Finding the right variety for what you intend to use it for can be a challenge. But if you are interested in growing hemp, a plant that won’t get you high, you will be looking for low THC, high CBD plants. The species Cannabis sativa is the Cannabis species hemp type plants are from.  There are two other species of cannabis, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis that are sometimes used to produce marihuana varieties.

Hemp is an amazingly versatile plant and it’s also grown for uses other than CBD oil.  It’s grown for fiber, fuel, food, and hemp seed oil.  Cage birds love the seed and its part of expensive pet bird feeds.  Hemp is a high protein feed and can replace soy in farm animal diets.  The fiber is turned into paper, rope, clothing and other things. Hemp seed oil is used in paint, varnish, shampoos and soaps as well as making an excellent cooking oil. Hemp can make a bio-degradable plastic like material that shows great promise in reducing petroleum-based plastic.

Can gardeners grow hemp?

A gardener might want to grow some hemp.  Herbalists can find many uses for hemp CBD, hemp seed and hemp seed oil. You might want to make your own cooking oil, rope, paper or textiles from the plant. You might want to provide seeds for pet birds. Some just want to see how it grows or use it for ornamental value. Growing hemp is not as exacting a task as growing good marihuana and it can be grown with little water and no pesticides outside.  It grows in almost every planting zone.

There are still a few things to consider before gardeners decide to grow hemp. Most states are now allowing hemp to be grown commercially, but a few are not. The federal legal status doesn’t change the status in states. And each state decides the rules of growing so you must check your state laws before planting hemp. Some states may allow registered commercial growing but not homeowner crops.

If your state has legalized growing marihuana then you are probably good to grow, but do check the law first, including local laws.  You should be able to grow the same number of hemp plants as marihuana plants for home use, maybe more.  If marihuana is legal you won’t have to worry about testing the plants for their THC level.  If marihuana is not legal growing hemp might get you arrested if the THC level is a little high or your crop may be destroyed. At least 3 states do not allow hemp or marihuana to be grown.

What you want to use your hemp for will determine how you will plant and cultivate it. Growing hemp for fiber or feed is fairly straight forward.  You can plant seed directly in the ground after the last frost or start plants inside from seed about 6 weeks before the last frost is expected and transplant the plants to the garden.  The seed you buy- if you can find it- must be certified as hemp seed.  If hemp growing is now a farm crop in your state, you might try a farm service organization to find seed. Otherwise you’ll need to search online for a source.

Hemp should be planted in full sun. It’s not too fussy about soil, but the area should be well drained. A good, organic, rich soil will give you a bumper crop.  Check the regulations for growing to see if you must enclose hemp or keep it from being seen by casual observers. You’ll probably want to keep it out of public sight because it looks like marihuana.  You don’t want someone stealing it or destroying it. Although hemp generally has sturdy stems a spot where its somewhat protected from wind would be good.

Unlike marihuana, hemp doesn’t need a lot of fertilization.  A good garden fertilizer worked into the soil at planting, something like 10-10-10, is generally enough. Hemp should be kept well-watered for a week or so after transplanting or germination but after that it won’t need watering unless it gets dry and hot.  If it wilts it needs watering.  Regular watering during dry spells may produce a larger crop, however.

Hemp grows fast and depending on the variety, can get 6 feet or more tall.  It usually has a branching habit with thick sturdy stems.  Hemp has a distinct smell, some think it smells like skunk, and I think it smells more at sundown and after watering.

Hemp doesn’t have a lot of disease and insect problems when it’s grown outside and is easy to grow organically.  Deer and other animals may munch on it however, although some outdoor growers tell me deer damage isn’t common.  Cats sometimes eat it, especially when its young.  Since it’s a high value crop you may want to fence it even if it isn’t required.

If you are growing hemp for fiber you won’t worry about whether you have male or female plants, both are fine.  To get hemp seed you will need some of both, but if you are limited to a set number of plants, you’ll want to reduce the number of male plants, since they don’t make seed. The bad news is you’ll have to wait until the plants start blooming to sex them. The plants do bloom for a long time so if you get rid of the males as soon as you spot them, you may have time to plant some additional hemp plants.

Sexing hemp plants is a bit tricky for beginners. Here’s a good site to learn how.

Hemp seed oil is different than CBD oil.  Hemp seed oil is used for cooking, crafts, cosmetics and some herbal remedies. It is made by crushing hemp seed. This oil has very little CBD or THC and won’t get you high.  Hemp seed oil is dark green and has a nutty aroma. The cakes of pressed seed left after oil is extracted are great as animal feed.

Hemp seed is quite nutritious having lots of good fatty acids, protein, and they contain high amounts of vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc. They can be eaten raw, roasted or boiled similar to chia and other seeds. They are part of many herbal remedies and have health promoting compounds other than CBD.  They are considered helpful for relieving PMS and painful menstruation and in aiding digestion, among other things.

For fiber, hemp plants can be harvested about two months after transplanting or 10 weeks after germination outside. You can leave them until just before the first fall frost though. For fiber plants are just cut near the base and hung to dry in a warm dark place.

In the case of seed production, you’ll need to wait until seeds have developed on the plants and matured to brown, sometimes with dark stripes, stage. To collect seeds cut the seed heads off and remove the seeds by breaking them apart or shaking them over a screen.  Spread seeds out to dry for a week or so in a warm dark place.  The rest of the plant can be dried for fiber or fed to animals.

Growing hemp plants for CBD oil

The growing of plants for CBD oil is a little more complicated than growing hemp for other uses.  First you need female plants, males do not make the buds that are needed to make the oil. So, you will need to purchase cloned female plants to plant.  They’ll need to be certified or guaranteed to be hemp type plants.  Finding these plants can be hard, the demand is great right now. (It would be a good business to get into – producing female hemp plant clones for sale to others.)  Clones are simply plants grown from cuttings of female plants.

(There are some hemp varieties that do have both sexes in one flower, (monecious flowers) but the longer a female plant goes without pollination the bigger the bud clusters get.  Most small hemp growers will want female clones to produce CBD and you’ll want to keep all males away from them.)

The clones would be transplanted into the garden around the summer solstice, in June. That’s the right time to encourage flowering as the day length slowly diminishes. The hemp plants should be well rooted and a couple months old when transplanted. They would be treated basically like hemp grown from seed for fiber after planting. Make sure to water them frequently for the first week or two after transplanting. You would not want to use any pesticides on the plants.

For CBD oil you’ll need to wait to harvest until you have nice fat buds on the plant. In most places you will be into September, maybe October before this happens.  Growers check the trichomes- tiny hair-like structures covering the buds. When they go from clear to milky white it’s usually the right time to harvest. You may need a hand lens to see them well. The larger string-like pistils sticking out of the buds should go from white to tan. 

While watching the buds for maturity you also need to watch the weather.  Try to harvest during a warm dry spell.  If a long period of wet, cool weather is known to be ahead and buds look close to ready you’ll want to harvest.  You want to avoid molded buds at all cost- they can’t be used for CBD oil, and wet fall weather can cause molded buds. 

When harvesting buds for CBD the branches with buds are generally cut from the plant and spread on screens in a warm dry place.  Fans are often used to circulate air. The buds are trimmed of long “fan” leaves just like buds are trimmed for marihuana production.  This is a time-consuming project.

A home grower won’t be able to know the CBD and THC content of hemp buds without testing. Sometimes stress or growing conditions or plants that aren’t what they were guaranteed to be will have levels of THC higher than .3 percent.  (Commercial growers use testing machines or use labs to find out.)  So, use your home-grown products carefully.  And if the state conducts tests of your hemp buds prepare to destroy your crop if the THC content is too high.

There’s not enough room in this article to explain how to extract fiber or make CBD oil or other hemp products.  You’ll need to look that information up.  There’s some links below.

In short, hemp can be considered a very helpful and versatile plant.  It used to be grown widely for its many products, until it became associated with ‘marihuana’ and the crazy drug prohibition of the last 6 decades or so. If you are an herbalist and hemp is legal to grow in your area you should have hemp in your garden. All gardeners might want to experiment with a patch of it.

More reading

An interesting footnote: a study of pollen in the air done in 2000 across the Midwest found that in August 36% of the pollen in the air was from cannabis. This was before legalized marihuana and hemp. It was from wild growing plants and secret pot growing patches.  Wow- more than a third of the pollen count was cannabis! 

Mushroom magic

Men who eat mushrooms 3 or more times a week can lower their risk of prostate cancer by at least 17%, according to research published last month in International Journal of Cancer, 2019; DOI: 10.1002/ijc.32591

The research was done on Japanese men and it found that even men who ate mostly meat and dairy lowered their risk of prostate cancer when they ate mushrooms frequently.  The amount suggested was about 7 grams a day.  So guys, add some mushrooms to that cheeseburger.
More reading

Tomatoes and sperm

Are you having issues with infertility?  Research done at the University of Sheffield UK, has found that men who eat cooked tomatoes or take a supplement made from them called LactoLycopene, have stronger, better shaped and more mobile sperm. 

Lycopene is found in ripe tomatoes and our bodies absorb it best from cooked tomatoes.  There has been an overall decline in sperm quality in men in the last few decades, thought to be from environmental factors. If a man is trying to have children, he might want to include lots of cooked tomatoes in his diet or take the supplement mentioned above.  Ketchup might count but a good spaghetti sauce or a bowl of tomato soup would be better.

More reading


“The trees are in their autumn beauty, The woodland paths are dry, Under the October twilight the water Mirrors a still sky.”
William Butler Yeats

Kim Willis
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I write this because I love to share with other gardeners some of the things I come across in my research each week. It keeps me engaged with people and horticulture. It’s a hobby, basically. I hope you enjoy it. If you are on my mailing list and at any time you don’t wish to receive these emails just let me know. If you know anyone who would like to receive a notification by email when a new blog is published have them send their email address to me.  KimWillis151@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

October 8, 2019 salvaging summer

Hi Gardeners
Tropical hibiscus 'The Path'
 It got down to 38 degrees last night, but we escaped frost once again. Some of you may have had frost already but for most of us, frost is just around the corner.  If you have plants you want to bring inside for the winter now is the time to get it done, at least in planting zones 6 and lower, maybe 7 too.
Before my second eye surgery I hustled to bring my tender plants inside, working in the rain on some days.  I moved over 100 pots inside.  About 10 of these are huge floor pots with 5-6 feet tall plants.  It’s getting harder and harder to move these in and out and I am seriously thinking that they will not be moved outside next year. 
Once inside I have to weave the plants into the available space while leaving space to water them. I have to find saucers for each pot.  Grow lights must be hung and timers adjusted. It’s a week or so of hard work.  But when I am done it makes me happy to be inside such a nice green spot, add my birds singing and it’s my personal jungle.
Every year I say I will salvage fewer plants and end up doing the opposite. Every window is packed and there are grow lights all over. I am a sucker for things that bloom all winter inside, and I hate letting perfectly good plants die when I know I could save them for next year. I was sitting outside yesterday and admiring some of the gorgeous cane type begonias I have on the deck and thinking “I could bring that one or this one inside.”  And put where?
Back in September I wrote about tender perennials you can save for next year. Many people don’t realize they can save some of these plants so they won’t have to buy them again next season.  Here’s the link to the September blog;

I still have just a few pots of bulbs that need bringing inside. This year I am going to dump the pots after frost kills the foliage and separate the bulbs, since the pots are so packed, and they didn’t bloom well this year. These are bulbs like crocosemia, peacock glads, rain lilies, eucomis, and so on, which aren’t winter hardy here.
Some things multiplied over the summer.  The violet stemmed taro put runners out into the pond it was sitting in and now there are 4 plants. I left two in water filled containers and potted two in soil, I’ll see which over winter the best. The burgundy leaved canna produced a new plant too, I have 3 of these now. Did you know cannas in bright light will stay nice looking through the winter inside? Little spider plants fell off big plants and rooted that had to be potted and brought inside too.
Although I have disrupted the garden by digging out this and that and moving pots inside, a lot of things are still blooming. The dahlias got a late start this spring and are just now at their best. Roses are in bloom again and anemone and toad lilies. The sweet autumn clematis and asters are spreading drifts of white. Mums are blooming and of course the annuals are still going. The verbena bonariensis is blooming again. Some snapdragons, violas and cleome are reblooming too. The verbena bonariensis isn’t reliably hardy in zone 5-6.  I’m wondering if I can overwinter it some way.  There I go again.
The leaves seem slow to color up this year. The oak is starting to shed some leaves, the maples are beginning to turn but most of the trees seem to be carrying on with summer.  That’s ok, a slow, long fall is always welcome.
I am slowly adjusting to my new eyes.  I no longer need glasses for distance but still need them for close work. That means instead of wearing glasses all the time I carry a pair of reading glasses in my pocket. It’s interesting since I didn’t realize how often one switches between close vision and distance vision. Try weeding without being able to see up close. And medium range vision like working on the computer, is especially challenging.  So is looking through the viewfinder on the camera and getting it focused.  And since the cataracts were removed everything seems so much brighter.  But I will adjust.

The month ahead-October gardening

For gardeners in many parts of the country October brings a new period of activity in the garden.  It’s time to plant bulbs and start the garden clean up. There is always a debate among gardeners whether or not to clean up the garden in the fall or spring. It’s a personal decision but there are some things to consider before making the decision.
The vegetable garden should be cleaned in fall if possible.  It’s time to put away the tomato cages, stakes, sprinklers and other equipment. Remove plant debris to the compost pile. This helps prevent insects and disease over wintering in the garden. Add manure and compost to beds. I would suggest waiting until a hard freeze or two before adding amendments.  That’s because the freeze may kill insect eggs and disease spores on the soil surface.  Adding manure or compost before a freeze may protect them.
If you need to harvest anything like carrots or potatoes, it’s time to get it done. Yes, you can cover the carrots with straw bales and then go out and shovel a path to the garden, move the heavy soaked bales and dig up some carrots in winter and then move the heavy bales back over the patch.  But that’s not a really practical solution is it? Carrots can be stored in a more accessible space indoors for a long time.
Flower bed cleanup in fall can be done, especially if you like a neat look going into winter. Many gardeners do fall clean up. But leaving the cleanup- or at least most of it until spring does have some advantages. Birds and beneficial insects can use the seeds and plant parts left behind over winter. Seed heads, stalks and stems, and grass clumps can provide winter interest in a bland environment.
But the most compelling reason to leave cleanup until spring is that it is the way nature does it. The dying foliage protects the crowns and roots of plants and traps snow, which also protects plant parts. The decomposing foliage returns nutrients to the soil. One plant to leave alone until spring is the chrysanthemum. Removing stems in fall often removes buds for next years foliage at their base. You can carefully cut dead stems back to about 6 inches but don’t remove stems.
If you want to collect seeds of various plants get it done soon. Some seeds of various flowers can be sown in fall for spring germination.  To read more about seed storage and fall sowing you can go to this page; 

Before a freeze you need to dig up summer bulbs such as glads, dahlias, canna, and so on if you want them for next year. Pick a stretch of sunny days so that after you dig them you can let them cure in the sun for a day or two.  Make sure they won’t freeze outside at night; you may have to bring them in at night.
Shake off the soil after it dries but don’t wash the bulbs/tubers.  After a day or two of curing you can cut off any foliage and pack the bulbs/tubers in slightly dampened wood shavings and store them in a cool, (above freezing) dry, dark spot.  

Dahlia tubers curing
It’s time to get bulbs for spring blooming plants planted. They can be planted from the time the soil starts to cool down until it freezes but don’t leave this until the last minute. I’ve been writing about bulbs in the last few blogs and there’s an article below on the actual planting process.
Don’t prune roses, shrubs and trees until they have gone dormant.  Pruning some plants before dormancy will cause them to put out new growth, which takes energy best conserved for spring growth. The new growth will probably be winter killed also.  After a few hard freezes and the loss of their leaves, roses, shrubs and trees can be pruned.  Spring flowering shrubs like forsythia and lilac, may not bloom in the spring if you prune them now, however.
You may still need to mow through October. Grass should not be too long when it gets covered with snow. Grass naturally starts growing slower as the day length gets shorter, but it will grow until the ground freezes.  In most of the country, zones 7 and below, it’s too late now to seed and fertilize the lawn.
Get those bird feeders filled.  You can use just black oil sunflower seed and suet cakes and attract most birds without a lot of waste. Add thistle seed and a very small amount of cracked corn, maybe some chopped peanuts and you will have pleased just about every bird species that visits feeders.  Most wild bird feed is filled with things like milo, red millet, oats and other seeds most birds really aren’t fond of.  It gets wasted below the feeder.
There is concern among conservationists that bird species are vanishing, and bird populations are down in numbers.  Feeding birds in winter does help them and it is a pleasant thing to sit and watch the birds in the winter. Put your feeder just outside a window so you can sit and watch the birds.
Don’t waste time raking leaves unless you are collecting them for composting or covering plants. Mow over leaves and let the small pieces fertilize the lawn. A thick layer of dead leaves could harm the grass but a light layer or chopped leaves won’t.  Putting leaves in plastic bags or any bags and sending them to a landfill is blasphemy for a gardener.  You are wasting a valuable resource. Leaves are natures fertilizer and mulch.
Don’t get me started on leaf blowers.  Gardeners do not need a leaf blower, which uses fossil fuels, pollutes the atmosphere and causes noise pollution. There might be some limited value in leaf blowers for those who need to clear off lots of paved areas in commercial settings, but a home gardener does not need a leaf blower. To use such an environmentally unfriendly machine to blow around a valuable garden resource is just nuts.
One thing to make sure you do this October is to get some time outside.  It’s a beautiful time of year but it’s fleeting.  Enjoy it while you can.

October’s full moon occurs on the 13th. This full moon is called the Hunters moon, Dying Grass moon or Traveling moon as Native Americans often moved to winter grounds during this time. The Hunters moon is named such because at this time of year the moon rises early in the evening and stays bright until almost dawn, letting hunters easily track animals in the night. (It’s now illegal to hunt most game animals after the sun goes down.) The grass isn’t dying (Dying grass moon) around here- I am still mowing, but it will die soon I suppose. The moon’s perigee occurs on the 26th.  Apogee is the 10th. 
If you like sky gazing, you may want to look for the Draconid meteors which will be at their peak Oct 9th.  This meteor shower isn’t as frequent or showy as others but who knows what you might see.  Look for the meteors in the northwest sky just after dark.  Peak is near the full moon so viewing may not be at its best.  Later in the month the Orionid meteor shower peaks around October 20-21st. Good viewing times for this meteor shower are around midnight.  These meteors can be seen in all parts of the sky.  The meteors are debris from the tail of Halley’s Comet.
October’s birthstones are the Tourmaline and Opal.  October’s birth flower was the calendula originally, but now is listed as marigold.  Calendulas were the “marigold” before the African plant we now call marigold was discovered. So now either calendula or marigolds is considered correct.  The meaning in flower language is warm, undying and contented love.
October is National popcorn popping month, vegetarian month, seafood month, cookie month, pizza month, and applejack month.  If you are not into food it’s also National Diabetes month, National Adopt a Shelter Dog month, National Domestic Violence Awareness month and of course the most used and abused “cause” of all, Breast Cancer awareness month. I’m not against breast cancer awareness just the commercialization of it.
Holidays of note in October include the 10th –World Egg Day – National Dessert day, 21st –Sweetest Day, 20th, National Pumpkin Cheesecake day, 22nd – National Nut Day, 24th –and then there’s two of the world’s favorite holidays, 30th -Devils night and 31st - Halloween.

Tips for planting bulbs

I wrote about buying spring blooming bulbs last month.  Hopefully every gardener did buy some bulbs this fall and is waiting for them to arrive. Once you get them try to plant them promptly. If you need to hold them a few days store them in a cool, dark place.
Most bulbs should be planted about three times as deep as their height, but there are exceptions to this rule.  Read package directions or look up the plant requirements if you are uncertain. In general plants with rhizomes or tubers instead of bulbs will be planted less deeply. (Rhizomes look like stems with buds and have roots attached.) If you aren’t good at estimating depth in inches use a trowel that’s marked with inches, use a ruler or mark a small piece of wood with inch measurements and use that to guide you.
Plant the bulbs with the pointed end of the bulb up.  If you can’t find a pointed end, look for a round scar on the bulb.  This is where roots were last year, and it goes down in the hole.  Rhizomes should have budded areas on top if you look closely.  If you absolutely have no idea what is top or bottom plant the bulb on its side.  Most bulbs will then be able to adjust themselves as they grow.  I notice many sellers send directions with those “tricky” bulbs that now say plant sideways.
Package directions will tell you how far apart to space bulbs.  Generally large bulbs should be about 6 inches apart, small bulbs 2-3 inches.  Arrange your bulbs in a staggered way, not in straight lines for a more natural look. Small groups of the same color or type of bulb look better than single bulbs.  Bulbs can be layered- plant larger bulbs deep and smaller bulbs less deeply, but don’t place small bulbs directly over the large, just close by.
Try not to remove any papery covering some bulbs have, but don’t worry if some of it falls off. Don’t separate the scales- or sections – which lily bulbs have and don’t try to divide daffodils with double or triple “noses”.  Yes, experts propagate bulbs that way, but it isn’t as easy as it seems, and your best bet is to plant the bulbs as they came.  You’ll get larger flowers this way.
Do not separate the scales ( sections) of a lily bulb before planting.
You can plant any bulb sections or tiny bulbs that fall off bulb clumps and hope some of them also bloom.  It can take another year or two in some cases.
A little mold on bulbs that still feel firm will not harm them. Just plant them as normal. Mushy or rotted looking bulbs should be discarded. If the bulbs arrived that way, I would contact the company you bought them from and ask for a refund.
Don't add bone meal to the hole when planting bulbs
Don’t use bone meal in the bottom of your hole. Bone meal should not be used at all.  Old books suggest it and some new references just copy that but in our times bone meal is steamed and processed for safety and little is left in the way of nutrients. It can attract some animals, which dig up your bulbs looking for it. Blood meal will also attract, rather than repel some pests.
You can use a general-purpose garden fertilizer or fertilizer formulated for bulbs but mix it with the soil you are back filling with or sprinkle it on the soil surface, don’t dump it in the hole.  That may burn roots.
Never add peat or compost to holes for bulbs. These can retain water, especially if the native soil is clay, and bulbs do not like that. They may rot before they root.
 A word of warning:  make sure pets can’t dig up and chew on or eat bulbs.  Some bulbs are quite poisonous to pets.  I almost lost a dog when it chewed on some daffodil bulbs.
After planting
You probably won’t need to water bulbs after planting.  If it’s very dry all fall a good soaking before the ground freezes might be indicated. Don’t add thick mulch after planting as this may impede the bulbs emergence.  A light mulch of 2 inches or less is ok and helps disguise the planting area from animals. If thick layers of leaves blow over planted bulbs remove some of the matted leaves in spring so that bulbs don’t struggle to emerge.
Mark the spots where you planted bulbs, so you know where they are.  Some fall planted bulbs and rhizomes are slow to emerge in the spring and you don’t want to damage them or plant over them.
When bulbs just begin to emerge in the spring a small amount of slow release granular fertilizer sprinkled on the soil around them, especially if you can do it just before a spring rain, will improve their vigor and size.  This practice may help bubs that aren’t reliably perennial return the next year too.  And if spring is dry make sure to water your bulbs.
What do I do about animals eating or digging up bulbs?
Narcissus, daffodil, and allium bulbs are not eaten by animals, although they can be dug out of the ground and left to die. If you have problems with animals like deer eating the flowers in the spring these bulbs are also good choices.
If you have trouble with animals digging up bulbs to eat you can lay a piece of wire fencing over the planted area until the ground is frozen. Make sure you remove it early in the spring if you don’t remove it in the fall after the ground freezes.  A piece of lattice, with 2-inch holes can be placed on the ground and the bulbs planted through the holes. This discourages widespread digging, such as from pets, which really aren’t after the bulb to eat. You can leave it and disguise it with mulch or remove it before the plants get very large.
I cover my bulb planting areas with leaves, evergreen branches, rose trimmings or straw to disguise the freshly dug area and discourage animals from digging there. Mulch can be used too, if it’s not over 2-3 inches deep.  Planting bulbs under the remaining foliage of things like hosta is also a good disguise.
Moles do not eat bulbs, but their tunnels attract other animals which do and their tunneling can sink bulbs too deep to emerge. If you have lots of moles you can plant bulbs in pots, which you sink in the ground to their rim. The pots should be deep enough for the type of bulb planted in them. Several bulbs can be planted in each pot if there is enough space. Pots sunk in clay soil may hold more moisture, even with good drainage holes.
You can also build a cage of hardwire cloth, (woven wire mesh) – with ½ inch or smaller openings.  Dig a hole and place the cage in it.  Place the bulbs inside and add the soil you removed from the hole.  The roots of the bulbs easily grow through the mesh and drainage isn’t impeded.
Folk remedies like sprinkling red pepper or mothballs on the ground do not keep bulbs from being dug up. Some birds and other animals actually like red pepper and it’s quickly washed away in fall rains. Mothballs are very poisonous to children and pets and add harmful chemicals to your soil when they dissolve.  They should never be used outside.
Did you forget to plant bulbs and the ground is frozen?
 If you look outside one morning and snow is on the ground don’t despair.  Plant the bulbs in a good potting soil mix in containers and keep the containers cool, in the refrigerator or on an unheated porch or garage. The ideal temperature is between 30 and 40 degrees. Water lightly every couple weeks.  After 8-10 weeks of cold the pots can be brought into a warmer, sunny place and they will probably bloom for you.  Or you can transplant the bulbs outside in the early spring. They may or may not bloom the next season but at least you had them this spring.
Don’t try to keep bulbs in a dormant state until the next fall or until spring.  While peonies and lilies can be spring planted, holding over plants or bulbs you bought in the fall isn’t a good idea. 
There’s still time to buy bulbs online for most gardeners.  See the list of garden catalogs to the right of the blog if you need links to online sources.
Plant crocus now for spring blooms
Kale chips

Do you have kale growing in your fall garden?  Here’s a quick and delicious way to use up some of it.
 Wash and dry some kale leaves.  Remove the heavy center rib and tear the kale into good sized pieces.
Spray a cookie sheet with pan spray.  I like to use an olive oil spray.
Arrange your kale pieces on the sheet so they don’t overlap.  Spray them with your cooking spray lightly.  Sprinkle with salt, I like fine sea salt.
Bake the kale in an oven set at 250 degrees F. for about 5 minutes or until crispy.  Watch the kale carefully so it doesn’t burn.
For variation try sprinkling on other spices such as red pepper, or adding some powdered cheese as you take the chips out of the oven.

“October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!”
 Rainbow Rowell , Attachments

Kim Willis
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