Getting ready for winter

Published 9:32 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

by Randy Moore

Well, seems like colder weather will be here before we know it.

We have put planting trees and shrubs (still have about 20 we need to get in the ground) on the back burner while I get plants ready for the greenhouse and the house. With the economic times being what they are, I like to collect seeds and take cuttings of some of my favorite perennials and annuals for next year. If you don’t have a greenhouse, you can still bring in most annuals to winter over.

I collect a lot of seeds to sow for next year. The seeds I have collected so far are Purple millet, Zinnia, Marigold, Queen Anne’s lace, Red Chinese noodle bean, Cosmos, Hyacinth bean, Rose campeon, Mullein, Bronze Fennel, Hardy hibiscus, Tithonia, Coneflower and Perilla.

This week I have dug up a few Boston ferns (yes, I plant them in the ground during summer), divided and repotted them along with Asparagus ferns, Lime basil, Weigela, Begonias, Citronella, Spider plants, Lantana, Fusia, Philodendron, Papyrus, Sedums and Coleus.

Before I repot and bring the plants into the house or greenhouse, I like to hose them off and spray them with an insecticidal soap. I sometimes use a store bought insecticide but prefer to use my own mixture, which is just as effective. One thing I don’t want to go through again is an infestation of whitefly or spider mites in the greenhouse; makes for a lot of work and loss of plants. Unless the plants that are in pots need to be repotted, I wait till February or March when I get ready to start my seeds.

Now is also time to get your large urns and pots ready for winter. Some of my urns have been around for almost a hundred years, and I feel obligated to keep them going as long as possible. Even if you don’t have antique urns or pots, large pots can cost several hundred dollars.

I like to take the plants out and repot them, clean out all the old soil and move them to a location where they won’t get wet or broken, which is what I have done for several years, but some of these can be very heavy and hard to move. Last year, I left them out by putting a large children’s ball in the urns and covered them with large garbage bags; this kept the water out, and they survived quite well, as did our back muscles.

Now is a good time to dig up the Caladium and Elephant ear bulbs and store them until next year. I dig them up and cut off the tops to within one-half inch, shake all the dirt off the roots, let dry in a cool, dry space where they can get good air flow for a few weeks until they are dry, and then store them in some peat moss till next year.

Sounds easy, but I still have about a 50 percent success rate with this method, so I tend to purchase more in the spring to replace the ones that did not make it. Now is the time to start thinking about where to plant those tulip bulbs; it is good to get them in the ground before it freezes so they will bloom in the spring.

Until next time, keep on dreaming, digging and planting for a better world.

RANDY MOORE owns Avant Landscape Design in Courtland. He can be reached at AvantDesign11