Sunday, September 30, 2007


Sorry it's been a few days since I've posted an entry. Here I am in Redmond, WA visiting with my daughter and her family. While getting out of the car the other day, I stepped on a wet (and slippery) stone and twisted my knee. It was an unpleasant experience and I've been limping around ever since. Since I was doing most of the cooking, etc. (my daughter was out of town, so I was responsible for our grandkids-FUN,FUN, FUN!) Anyway, I was pretty much exhausted limping around while doing all that. Sitting at the computer was the last thing on my mind. I was ready to elevate that leg and ice it, so I did. Sorry!
Anyway, it's raining again. It would seem strange that the plants need to be watered even in the rain, but there's a rhodie that's looking pretty dry right in front of the bay window here in Washington. Check out my September 21st posting and see why this needs "doing".
No matter what your climate, when the plants are about to go into dormancy, the best thing you can do for them is to be sure they are well watered.
Maybe later I'll do a posting about the book I just finished reading. It's called "Robbing the Bees". Wow! Did I learn a lot!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Planting bulbs allows the most wonderful dreaming a gardener has all year. The great thing about it is that come spring, your dreams will come true!
When you order your bulbs, you will find there are different prices and sizes. If you're buying tulips, which tend to last just one year, I'd buy the bigger, showier ones. If you're buying daffodil and narcissus, which multiply and continue to prosper as the years go by, I'd aim for the cheaper ones and get more of them. If you're buying the smaller ones, like crocus and snowdrops, size isn't an issue.
When planting them, tulips tend to look best in formal beds, where daffodils are wonderful when allowed to "naturalize". You can do that by tossing them over your shoulder and planting them where they land! How fun is that?
Try to avoid planting bulbs right under trees as the tree roots will interfere with the planting to say nothing about competing with the bulb for water and nutrients...guess who wins in THAT battle!? They do look great in FRONT of trees and shrubs which create a wonderful backdrop for them.
When planting bulbs, the general rule is to plant them three times as deep as the largest dimension of the bulb, with the pointy end up. If you really can't figure out which end is the pointy one, try laying them on their side...that will work. Also, toss and work in a bit of bulb fertilizer. The bulbs won't be dug up for awhile, so it will behoove you to give them a good start.
Enough for now on bulbs.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Here I am in Seattle, WA visiting my daughter and her family. Let me relate a funny story that happened many years ago when she first moved here and gardened for the first time.
Being the Master Gardener, I, of course, got tons of questions as this was her first experience doing these things on her own. One of the first questions was about some shrubs she had in the front yard that looked pretty sad.
"What's wrong with these shrubs?" she asked. I looked and for all the world they looked like they were suffering from drought! But, hey, this is Seattle we're talking about. It rains here ALL the time! I was stumped.
However, that afternoon, she was treating me to the Seattle Flower Show! I don't know any garden show that doesn't have a Master Gardener booth available to the attendees. So, I grabbed a few leaves, stuffed them in my pocket, and off we went.
As we entered, the first thing I saw was the Master Gardener Extension Booth. Hurray!
I pulled out my little leaves and handed them over with the query, "What's wrong here?"
They looked and said, "They're thirsty!" Hey wait a minute...this is Washington, where it rains ALL the time. HOW can they possible be thirsty? There's no drought going on here that I know about!
So, I got the explanation. It may rain a lot here (in Seattle) but it is a very light rain. Very rarely does it rain HARD, for a LONG time. So, the water doesn't permeate the soil. It just goes into the top half inch or so. The roots get none of it!
So, you see? Even in Seattle where it rains ALL the time? You need to water your plants with a soft, SUSTAINED, soak! So, pay heed, no matter what the weather...unless you've had a few VERY heavy SOAKING rains...WATER your plants before winter sets in!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


There are a few things you need to tuck into your gardening mind about shrubs in the early fall. Shrubs are a pretty hardy bunch, so they'll keep trying to put out new growth. At this time of year, you should be helping them pull up the covers and prepare for a long winters nap! How can you do that?
Begin by NOT doing any more pruning of those shrubs. When shrubs are pruned, they attempt to put out new growth to make up for that which has been lost! If it's cold enough that won't be a problem. But, if we get a few warm days in a row..whoosh...out come the new little shoots. Then the cold returns and zaps the little shoots. Those dead shoots will sit there all winter and invite disease and insects. Help your shrubs by NOT pruning them until it's cold enough that you know no warm stretches will follow. (This is part of the reason pruning is done right after flowering, or when it's consistently warm.)
The same thing applies to fertilizing. If you fertilize too early in the fall, the plant will try to put out newly invigorated growth. Again, wait until you know it's too late for the shrub to generate new little shoots. AND, if you do that, the fertilizer will go down to the roots where it will help them strengthen and prepare for spring.
Another thought is to stop picking roses for the table. A rose bush will start to harden off when the hips appear. So let your roses form hips and they will probably do better through the winter!

Monday, September 17, 2007


Well, it never dropped below 38 degrees here! Boy, am I glad. I was really NOT ready for that deep freeze.
There were a few places that obviously did get a pretty sustained freeze, because I saw some frost nipped plants. How about you? Did you get any frozen plants out of this warning? The farm stands don't seem to be suffering either. I'm VERY happy. I'm really not ready for this cold to come's still SEPTEMBER!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


The Birds & Blooms magazine has asked me to insert my blog on their page. I'm delighted to be doing that, beginning today.
I must say that Nature has decided to deal me a tough hand for my first Posting. The weather man says that tonight we will have a sustained, and heavy FREEZE! That limits my choices for topics to discuss here. However, just like you, I'm a gardener and we're a resilient bunch (aren't we?). It just brings us to the next season. It seems to me it's a bit early, but then I think that every year! It never fails, Spring is late and Autumn is early. Why do you think that is?
So, what can you do after a heavy freeze? First, let's define a heavy freeze. It's not a "frost" which comes and goes with nary a threat. But when we get a HEAVY and SUSTAINED FREEZE, we're looking at some real changes in the garden.
Be prepared to see your annuals looking black. The hosta will be droopy and look a bit like frozen lettuce. Yuk! Depending on just how hard the freeze is, your marigolds may even be nipped. If this happens, and sooner or later it will, buck up, it's just time for the next step out there.
By time you get outside to check all this damage, the sun will have reappeared and it will be relatively warm again. So, get ready to do a bit of gardening.
  • Pull out all the annuals that have turned "black".
  • If there are perennials whose leaves look like the annuals ("black"), they can be gently pulled off the plant as well.
  • Toss all of that debris into the compost. If there is any diseased material, put that in the garbage. You don't want to have diseases spread all over the garden in the spring. The same applies to insect damage.
  • If you haven't done so already, bring in all the houseplants being sure to check them first for insects and disease. Give them a good washing!
  • It's a good time to collect some soil for sending off to the Extension Service at your local Land Grant College or University.
  • Water your plants, shrubs and trees deeply to avoid winter stress. They will thank you for that by flourishing in the spring.
Next time we'll talk about some other chores for this time of year. Let's hope we were lucky, and the "freeze" was just a "frost". I'll have a few more ideas for you in a few days.

Friday, September 14, 2007


OK, they've moved into a tree near me! Not only that, it's at the TOP of the tree! I can't reach it and it's driving me crazy. What to do?
Much to my delight, I found an article that talks about just this problem. It also says that we can help ourselves by planting various forms of plants in the ASTER family (Asteraceae) close to the trees that are affected! The daisy-like blossoms attract little ichneumonid wasps. These little wasps don't bother people at all, but they parasitize BAGWORMS!
The happiest part of that little equation is that it's aster season! Even the wild asters are blooming all over. So, beg, borrow or buy some very attractive asters for your garden. Then plant them relatively near the afflicted trees and hope the little wasps find your garden, and hence your bagworm laden trees.
I've copied part of the article for you so you can get the straight skinny from the original source!

"Plant Daisies to Fight Bagworms

The bagworm (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis) is a common pest of many coniferous and deciduous trees in the eastern U.S. This moth’s larvae spin unsightly baglike shelters in tree canopies and can cause serious damage through defoliation. Typical control methods include mechanical removal of the bagworm shelters (when feasible) and the application of pesticides. However, the bagworm has a number of natural enemies —in particular, parasitoid insects, such as ichneumonid wasps—and research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has shown that bagworm control by these insects can be enhanced by planting certain flowering plants near trees and shrubs that are susceptible to bagworm infestations. The flowering plants used in the UIUC research were all members of the Asteraceae, or aster family, which includes many species with daisylike blossoms known to attract parasitoids. Among them were a shasta daisy cultivar (Leucanthemum × superbum ‘Alaska’), a cultivar of the Newfoundland aster (Aster novi-belgii ‘Professor Anton Kippenburg’), and the treasure flower (Gazania rigens), a South African native. The bagworm host plant was an arborvitae cultivar (Thuja occidentalis ‘Woodwardii’). In one trial, surrounding host plants with flowers led to a 70 percent increase in the parasitism of bagworms. In another trial, attacks on bagworms by parasitoid insects increased by a factor of three when host plants were surrounded by a high density of daisy flowers. Many plants in the Asteraceae are native to North America."

Source: J.A. Ellis et al., “Conservation Biological Control in Urban Landscapes: Manipulating Parasitoids of Bagworm (Lepidoptera: Psychidae) with Flowering Forbs,” Biological Control 34(1), July 2005, 99–107 (Elsevier Science, 6277 Sea Harbor Dr., Orlando, FL 32887).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


It's getting to be that time again. I have a few chickadees who are visiting my thistle feeder. They NEVER eat thistle seed in the winter at my feeders! They must be early "returners" looking for a handout. They know the location of my here they are. The pickings are slim since the finches are the only ones I feed (except Hummingbirds, of course) in the summer.
Anyway, that makes me think of bird seed.
A few years ago, I participated in an experiment for Cornell University Feeder Watch. It was to see what seed the birds actually liked enough to pick and eat, if given a choice. I offered sunflower, milet and mixed seed. There was NO question that they absolutely preferred the sunflower.
Since I don't like the mess created by the hulls, and since the hulls are toxic to the grass they fall on, I have ever since offered ONLY shelled sunflower seed. They love the seed, and leave no shells on the lawn. How much more perfect can that be?
I, of course, also offer the thistle for the finches. Occasionally the nuthatches go to that feeder as well. But, even they much prefer the shelled sunflower. Suet is there for the woodpeckers and anyone else that needs a little "beefing" up!
I don't put my feeders up until after the local black bears have pretty much found a comfy cave and will leave my feeders alone. That means that it's late October or early November before I begin this process.
I wonder if we'll manage to get through the entire winter before selling our home up here in the White Mountains.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


It's raining! It's not quite 7 AM and the rain is delightful. Have you ever noticed that we get the most rain in the spring and the fall?
This seasonal rain is nature's way of nurturing the plants and trees so they can manage to make it through a long and sometimes difficult winter. Use this as a CLUE for your gardening.
I don't know how your season is going where-ever it is that you live. If you haven't gotten a ton of rain, begin to soak your shrubs and young trees. See to it that your perennials are deeply watered as well. The more you can help them the better.
If you are thinking about doing some fertilizing now, think again. You can hold off on that for a bit. You don't want to encourage a flush of growth should it get warm during our lovely autumn season. When it does get genuinely cold, those tender bits of growth will definitely be "nipped" by the frost, stressing the plant just as it goes into winter mode.
So, right now, the best thing you can do for your garden is to water it, DEEPLY!

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Oh, what a delightful drive I had today!
On my way home from Hanover, NH, I decided to take the River Road. I've passed this little road a million times, but I always seemed to be in a rush, or my husband balked, or something. Today, I was alone; the "big guy" was at a meeting; and I had a ton of time on my hands. So, when River Road appeared, the car just turned all by itself and entered a bit of paradise! Why hadn't I done this before???
This little country road runs next to the Connecticut River for probably 10+ miles or so. I'd say the river was visible from the road at least 80 percent of the time. Most of the homes there were lovely, some with lovely gardens, I might add! There was a short stretch of road that was not paved. For a few minutes I thought I might run into a dead end, but that didn't happen. After a mile or so, it was paved again. There were a few single lane bridges and a small covered bridge that I crossed.
Oh, I'm so happy I live in the North Country and can take such pleasant drives. I just wish I'd done this one sooner.

Saturday, September 01, 2007



Seed or over seed new lawns before the leaves begin to fall.

Fertilize your perennials and shrubs... it will help them make
it through the winter.

To keep your bulbs in top-notch condition while giving you lots of flowers, scatter a 5-10-20 fertilizer on top of the ground above them.

Japanese Beetles lay eggs at about this time, so treat your lawn with beneficial nematodes that will control the grubs.

Stop pruning shrubs. This will encourage new growth, which should be avoided. Any new stuff will be nipped by frost which is NOT good for the plant!

If you haven't divided your herbaceous perennials, such as daylilies, irises, hostas and peonies, get it done soon. Remember the soil is still nice and warm even if the temperature drops at night. It allows the roots time to settle in and establish themselves before winter sets in! This is what makes fall such a good time to plant!

Allowing hips to form on your roses tells the plant to harden off for winter. So, you should probably stop picking the blooms for the table!

Water your peonies and shrubs very heavily. It will have to last
until spring.

Put all your non-diseased plant debris in the compost bin,
adding a bit of soil as well, to help get the chemistry moving!

If you haven't done a soil test... now is the time. Call your
local Extension Office for information.

Dig up your gladiola, dahlia and tuberous begonia corms.

Poinesttias should now be put in their dark corner for at least 16 hours each day in order to set up their bracts to be colorful by Christmas time.

I would suggest that you begin removing blossoms from your tomato plants. This will tell the plant it's time to ripen up the tomatoes left on the vine, and stop putting out more. (Unless you want green tomotoes, that is!)

Watch for migrating Monarch Butterflies that are beginning to head south to spend the winter in Mexico.

Also, look for Broad-Winged Hawks that are migrating about now.

Take down your Hummingbird feeders at the end of the month, if you haven't already.


Any questions about September?