Seasonal preparedness requires autumnal attention
A recent lecture on Fall Preparedness reminded me that container planting, a really popular gardening practice, requires some specific attention this time of year.
Seasonal planters, those you only use in the spring/summer/fall, should be emptied, cleaned and stored. We do this because the winter weather is not good for most planter material. Plastic pots become brittle and crack or split. Ceramic pots and terra cotta ones flake and crack as the water is absorbed, freezes and expands in any available crack or crevice.
Discard annual plants — the healthy ones in the compost heap, the diseased ones in the trash. Perennial plants can be cut back and kept watered in their pots until the soil freezes. If you have potted plants that remain in the pots and outdoors, consider moving the containers to a protected area and wrapping them with bubble wrap or burlap. Do not seal the wrapping, as the pots need to be able to react to the wet and dry, hot and cold weather.
What about the soil in the containers? Well, avoid problems with insects wintering over in the soil and soil-borne diseases by dumping the old soil, brushing out the pot and cleaning it with a mild bleach solution. Using fresh potting soil each season increases your chances for healthy plants.
Do I always dump the soil? Not really, but I do use fresh soil for anything that is particularly sensitive or very important to me.
Another container subject that comes to mind this time of year is using spring flowering bulbs in containers. You can plant some of your bulbs in containers when you set them out this fall. Place the containers in a cool but protected area. The side of the house foundation, under a porch or in an unheated garage all would work. If you plan on bringing the containers inside to force bulbs this winter, make sure that the pots are accessible, not buried in the snow, and note that most bulbs require several weeks (usually 8 to 12) in a cool area, below 40°F, before they will bloom.
An interesting option for container bulb planters is layering — planting a variety of bulbs that require different depths, and often bloom at different times — in the same container. Look for directions for layering bulbs or lasagna bulb planting for ideas and specific directions.
Basically, you add soil to the bottom of the pot then plant the largest bulbs first, add soil and move to the smaller ones, planting each type at the proper depth for optimum results. For example, plant tulips or large daffodils at the bottom, usually about six inches deep, then something of shallower depth for miniature irises, crocus and other small bulbs.
Another plan would be to plant the same bulbs but use early, mid-season and late-season varieties for a longblooming container.
Statuary and ornaments
Your garden ornaments, the statues, the birdbaths, and such require similar care.
Clean and store the smaller ones. Even cast resin statues will crack and chip after a few seasons, and the color will fade on many of them. Heavier, larger statues can be left in place but should be protected with a loose cover — burlap, plastic, bubble wrap, or a tarp, but not sealed to allow for condensation and evaporation of any moisture that gets in.
Glass containers, wind chimes and other ornaments are best brought indoors. Like the pots mentioned above, they will shatter in the cold weather.
For the birds
The hummingbirds are long gone and their feeders should be brought in, cleaned, and stored for next year. Birdhouses can be cleaned and left out. While a roosting box is a more practical option for housing during cold weather, some birds will shelter in a birdhouse.
What’s a roosting box? It’s a structure, similar to a birdhouse, but it usually has the hole closer to the bottom of the box and fewer drainage and circulation holes to preserve heat. The roosting box has several perches and the interior is left rough to allow birds that cling to surfaces to roost as well. The walls may be thicker than a birdhouse for more insulation, and the box is usually larger than a birdhouse to accommodate more birds. Some have metal reinforcement around the hole to deter predators. Roosting boxes are generally placed in sheltered areas. A southern exposure and a few hours of sunlight will allow the box to heat up.
A pleasant meeting
Thank you to the members of the Countryside Garden Club of Center Valley for their warm welcome. I spoke at a recent meeting in the Hopewell Elementary School in Upper Saucon Township. We had a good discussion about the fall garden and all the things that need to be done. They were gracious and welcoming. I even won one of the door prizes.
“I loved the colors and felt like it was a little vignette,” painter Vonnie Whitworth said of “The Glass Wheel.”