Now that Frost has come…

I always dread Frost, bringing to an end another gardening season.  There is so much to be done before it arrives:  collecting seeds, taking cuttings of special plants, dragging out covers for other plantings in the hope of keeping pretty them for a few more days.  For those tender specimens, I had to figure out a new sheltered location to protect them, since I no longer have big commercial greenhouses.  This bench (below) was moved into the basement, where the laundry room used to be, so there is already a floor drain and water faucets.  You can see I’ve already moved my collection of succulents inside.  I will have to add additional lights, but that can be a “bad weather” project.

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For now, the other plants that need a bit of shelter are in the new hobby greenhouse, since the forecast is for another spell of good weather, with only patchy frost occasionally.  The bay tree, lemon tree, dwarf pomegranate, rosemary and others will be fine in there until it turns really cold.  I don’t plan to heat the greenhouse until next early, early spring.  So, later on, on some nice sunny day, I’ll move them into the basement bench.  Until then, they really enjoy the sunshine.

This year, the first frost came much later than normal and it was only a light patchy one, so I really can’t complain too much.  We’ve had a glorious, long late summer into autumn allowing lots of time for soil moving, weeding, and transplanting.  I was able to reclaim a garden and begin turning it into Fairyland, plant the front borders on the potager, re-do the garden around the lamp post out front, and add the little shade garden.  But, eventually, frost did come, turning all the brilliant colors of zinnias and other tender plants various shades of brown.  Sad.  I could show you lots of other photographs, but you probably have enough depressing brown in your own gardens, unless you live in a more temperate zone.

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The aftermath of frost sometimes makes your mistakes all too glaring.  See the poor variegated Mrs. Pollock geranium (photo below) that I forgot to move inside?  And the lantana behind it? Too late to save them now.  However, the dahlia on the right should be allowed to be zapped by frost.

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Then, the stems are trimmed off, most of the soil is removed, and a label is added.  I place them in plastic tubs, cover them with moss, and stack them in a cupboard where the mice can’t get to them.  These are dahlias I grew from seed, so I just label them for color.

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Cannas, gladiolas, and other summer-flowering bulbs can be handled the same way.  I do check them a couple of times over the winter, and if the bulbs seem to be too dry, I sprinkle them with a bit of water to moisten the moss.  I don’t want them to shrivel too much, but I also don’t want them so moist that they mold.

So, now there’s a new job list.  No more watering containers daily, or deadheading annuals.  Now it is time to remove all the frosted annuals, cut down dead stalks, do a final weeding, and finish planting the bulbs.  I also like to check fading labels (Markers just don’t last as long as they once did!) and re-write them if necessary.  I map all the gardens, so I have a good basis on which to plan over the winter.  And, once the ground freezes, I’ll add a bit of mulch to those plants that appreciate an extra blanket for the winter.  There’s always something in the garden to do, and that’s just the way I like it.

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About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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