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Joy's Garden Patch

Join in the fun of the season with gardening tips and advice

As funny as it sounds, I’ve been picking red, ripe, delicious strawberries off my plants this week. I’ve gotta admit these last berries have never tasted better. That’s probably because I know it is the end … at least for them.

And I know my tomatoes are done. I’ve plucked every single last one off and brought them inside. Now I’ll throw the plant skeletons into the compost pile. For the green tomatoes I’m left with, I’ll try to ripen them. I usually throw them into a paper bag with apples. Does it work? Well, it works better than not.  Unfortunately, I do not pickle green tomatoes. Who knows though, maybe I’ll watch a certain movie and get out the frying pan.

I did take a look at a few gardens and the Peter’s Rock garden plots are winding down. Seems like it’s been a good season for them, and with this week’s especially bright and gorgeous harvest moon, the fall and winter crops of  cabbages, cauliflowers and other goodies look very fine. Don’t miss the shots I’ve posted of the organic garden.

Frost Alert:  If you don’t want to be caught by surprise, you’ll want to fetch coverings (row covers, baskets and the like) and make your preparations for the possible frost being forecast for the weekend. Gardens at the tops of slopes and those tucked into valleys are most susceptible.

Fallscaping:  Isn’t that a great word?  I didn’t make it up. Really.  It’s from the book I recommend in this week’s bookbag. It’s by Nancy Ondra and Stephanie Cohen and it’s all about landscaping in the fall. That’s a side to gardening that some do not consider, but really should.

One point to be made is that you shouldn’t chop down and pull out everything and carry it all off to the compost pile at the end of the season. I know there are gardeners who insist on super clean garden and flower beds. But it’s so wonderful to see structure in the garden coming from the skeleton forms of deciduous shrubs, trees, flowers and plants after they are done growing for the season.

For me, I love my Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick. It’s a gnarled and knobby little tree that looks wonderful in the snow. And I leave the coneflowers alone. It’s fun to see all the birds that are attracted to the dried flowers. The finches love the thistles from the coneflowers. The colorful birds lay claim when they land on the flower. They sway back and forth on the spiked cone heads, feeding for as long as they possibly can, before losing their balance; or when that bigger or bolder bird comes by to dislodge the original owner.

Besides, fall is not the end. It’s just another season with a different way to garden. For this time of year, you can find amazing assortments of wonderful plant combinations to put together before the snow falls. Last week we talked about a few options: asters, Autumn Joy sedums, false sunflowers, monkshood and bulbs, among others.

Take a look at the book “Fallscaping” and you’ll find some really different color choices, including what Ondra and Cohen call “shocking contrasts.”  One combination they suggest is Japanese beautyberry against Arkansas bluestar. It’s awesome. I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda like a Grranimals girl. I need someone to show me the color combinations that work. These gardeners have found more than a few examples to inspire you before you call the season quits.

Oma Tike Tip:  Set-up leaf bins. Leaf season is around the corner. Make quick leaf corrals or bins from coated wire and anchor with pins. Do yourself a favor and put several around the yard if you have the room.

Winter must-do preparation:  It should include watering your newer trees and evergreens. I have a stand of arborvitae to one side of the yard to help screen out the neighbors (My husband wouldn’t let me put up a 10-foot concrete wall with barbed wire).  So as a proactive move, I water them continuously up until the first hard frost. That way there’s a better chance that I won’t lose one of the shrubs, and then find myself with a peek-a-boo arborvitae privacy screen.  I will probably also use a desiccant spray in the hopes that the arborvitae won’t dry out over the winter.

Events:
September 17, 2011 Wallingford Gardeners Market from 9am-12pm

September 17, 2011 CTNOFA, What Can You Still Do in the Garden, Hands-on workshop, New Haven

September 18, 2011 Natives for Fall, Free Garden Workshop at Natureworks, Northford

October 1-2, 2011 Bulbs for Breast Cancer at Natureworks, Northford. The 2nd annual event features free garden workshops and fun.

From the Garden Bookbag:
Oma Tike’s Pick
: “1001 Hints & Tips for your Garden,” by Reader’s Digest

Thousands of tips in bite-size paragraphs give useful information on specific plants, flowers and fruits, as well as construction how-to plans for patios and walls, advice on how to plant rock gardens, and how to deal with pests and animals.

Joy’s Pick: “Fallscaping, Extending your garden season into autumn,” by Nancy J. Ondra and Stephanie Cohen, Storey Publishing

Everything you could want to know about fall planting and plantings, including color combinations, garden care, saving seeds and more.

Next Week’s Column:  Sorting through fall plant choices; Chores; Bookbag;   

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