This has been quite an unusual fall for many of us. Seems like the winter was in no hurry to arrive, so we’ve been treated to one of the warmest and longest falls in a long time. With that, many trees are still showing colors and many plants in my garden are still going strong. All this is going to come to a screeching halt tonight as we drop from almost 70 this morning to the 30’s overnight. Yikes!
Until then, here’s some of what’s still been going strong in my garden.
Tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, hot and sweet peppers and hardy herbs are still there for the picking.
Even the heat loving zinnias are still hanging in there! Their colors are blending beautifully with the fall garden colors. I think after today, I’ll be dead heading them for next year (Fall Seed Gathering Means Beautiful Summer Zinnias). If you look closely behind the zinnias, you can see the fall garlic shoots indicating next year’s garlic harvest.
Despite the abundance of fallen leaves, the geraniums aren’t looking like they’re ready to be done anytime soon.
The cosmos are still blooming strong. But, the hydrangeas behind them are ready to add winter interest to the garden.
The Victoria Blue Salvia is in the same bed as the cosmo. Usually this area is all salvia, but due to a mix up (well my mix up) when I ordered the annuals from a local plant sale, I didn’t actually buy any this year. These are self seeded from last year and added a nice splash of purple to the pink of the cosmo.
While the Purple Beautyberry bush(Callicarpa x NCCX1) is expected to look great this time of year, I thought I’d add it since it’s a fairly new shrub and thankfully doing great! I can’t get enough of those fall purple berries and each year I’ve had more.
Each year I head to the local garden store to pick out flowers for the planters. The results are rarely the same from year to year since I just pick what I like at that moment. Sometimes I might like yellows, other times maybe purples, sometimes more upright, others lots of vines. This year for the front stoop I was in apparently in a pink/purple mood.
In the backyard, I am a creature of habit. In two shady planters near the grill, I always put in coleus. My local garden shop carries a great selection of coleus so every year I can mix and match.
The one lesson I learned through the years is check the height of the plants. They can range from a few inches to a couple of feet, so match accordingly. Otherwise that favorite may be completely dwarfed by its neighbor.
Then there’s two long planters in the backyard that always have geraniums and something low. Usually it’s petunias, but this year I switched it up and used an annual lobelia. I did notice in the first few hot days that they need a lot more water than the petunias. Need to stay on top of that! But they do look stunning next to the hot pink geraniums.
The last two planters have had a variety of things going on. I haven’t really decided what I like in them. As it came time to plant them this year, I realized I was missing marigolds in the garden. They’ve been a mainstay in my garden ever since my first garden in NJ. I miss how well they grew there, but as one of my favorites, I keep them somewhere in my yard. It’s definitely one of those love/hate plants for gardeners. This year they went in the planters with some snapdragons. The snapdragons aren’t blooming yet, but soon will be attracting the butterflies and hummingbirds.
These are all recently planted, so I’m hoping they’d ill in nicely through the summer. With enough water and some periodic fertilizer they should look great.
As comparison, here’s some what these planters looked like last year…
In my last post, I showed you how I planted my geranium and petunia planter (Geranium and Petunia Planter). Aside from watering and fertilizing as needed, there’s a little bit more maintenance to do to keep the plants bushy and pretty. Basically you need to pinch off the dying flowers before they turn to seed. This keeps the plant putting its effort into making more flowers instead of focussing on going to seed.
Every few days, check and look for dead or dying flower stalks.
Not only are they ugly, they are sucking plant energy into finishing seed production rather than into flower production.
Pinch down low, where the stem meets the plant and pull downward. The flower stalk will break right off. If this seems tricky, or you’re not getting a clean break, you can use clippers.
Now it looks prettier and there’s lots of new buds ready to burst forth.
Now for the petunias… These are the old fashioned types, so you need to pull off all the dead and dying flowers to keep the flowers blooming all season. Be sure to not just remove the petals, but pinch back to the base of the flower, or to just above the first leaf below the flower. Otherwise, you’ve left the seed pod to mature.
Some of the new hybrids either don’t need dead heading at all, or the dead flowers just drop off with a breeze or a shake. Very convenient!
Don’t forget your hanging geraniums either! They need the same attention.
In my experience, to have a successful planter or pot, there’s a few tricks you’ll want to use.
First, be sure your planter has a drain hole. If not, try to drill some if the planter material allows
Add a layer of something to keep the soil from washing out (and can cut down on the amount of soil needed if the planter is large). Depending on the size of the pot (therefore weight), you can use stones, styrofoam peanuts, a layer of newspaper, etc. I’ve even used pinecones in some.
Only use potting soil!! It’s specially blended to avoid soil compaction and retain moisture. I usually use Miracle Gro Potting Mix. If it’s the first year of using the soil, fertilization isn’t usually needed, after that be sure to fertilize on a regular basis.
What kind of plants you add is up to you. There’s lots of resources to come up with interesting combinations. Use what you like!
On to planting… Geraniums and petunias are one of my favorite combos. It’s simple, but gives a great splash of color in this low rectangular pot that sits on my patio.
First, decide how the plants will be arranged.
It’s easiest to remove some of the soil first. Set the plants in, the pack the soil back in the plants.
Remove the plant from the pot. This is easiest done by grabbing the stem down low next to the soil and turning the plant over. Tap, twist or squeeze the container and pull gently. Be careful to get the dirt with the roots.
If the roots are root bound, squeeze the root gently to allow some of the roots to separate out. This allows the roots to come in contact with the new dirt and grow. If really root bound, physically pull the root ball apart at the bottom to get root growth started again.
Plant the root ball level with the surface of the soil. Pack the soil back in around the root ball. Be sure to get as many roots in contact with the potting soil to grow for a healthy plant. Water generously to soak the roots and push out any air spaces that will block soil and root contact.
Now time to add the petunias.
Be especially careful removing the plants. Grab low and push from the bottom. Plants in these small 6 packs can easily be pulled right out of the soil if you’re not careful.
Plants in cell packs are often quite root bound.
Give them a squeeze to open the roots up.
Do you have a favorite simple plant combo you keep coming back to?
Today’s post is a tribute to my son’s high school cross country team who will be traveling to the IL state meet tomorrow with the goal of coming home #1! As everything around town has been turning from summer green to fall red, it brings to mind that this could very well be the year that it will be “RED” hoisting the championship trophy.
As a send-off to the boys, here are some of the beautiful red colors we’ve been seeing lately.
No matter what happens this weekend, just like this geranium still strongly blooming late into fall, these boys are tenacious and aren’t going away anytime soon. Good Luck!