I started a batch of compost today. (I have to admit, I had drifted away from doing it for a while.) Moved the compost bin to a more convenient location to the side of, instead of behind, the garden shed. Bob put down a thick layer of topsoil then we dumped in a fluffy layer of shredded office paper, my kitchen scraps, and about a third of the remaining water lettuce and water hyacinth plants from the pond. (My friend, Anita says they make very good compost.)
Another layer of topsoil, more office paper, and more of the pond plants. I didn’t have enough paper, so I made a temporary pile of the rest of the pond plants for the next layer. Moistened it all with the garden hose, secured the top with a couple large rocks to keep the critters from trying to remove it. And I am on my way to compost for next gardening season.
The secret to compost is in the layers and combination of soil, carbon-rich components (the paper) and green components (the kitchen scraps and pond plants.) And moisture. When it begins to work, I’ll mix and aerate it. I won’t add any meat products or grease, to discourage the critters from trying to get to it, and to prevent odors as much as possible. (You can’t eliminate odors completely, which is why the bin is away from the house.)
The frost has turned most of the perennials into mush for the season. But a star has arisen, a jewel amid the rubble of season’s end. (Actually it was there all along, but the rest of the perennials looked good, and now that they don’t this star really shines.)
The star of the show is the nippon daisy or Montauk daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum) a wonderful fleshy plant with sturdy white daisy flowers. I planted several small ones I bought on eBay in the spring, and then we found a source for larger ones, so I added one of them. The small ones are doing OK, but the large one– WOW! Just when you think everything is looking pretty bad, along it comes to give you a fall perennial second act.
While the weather remains dry and milder, I think I’ll bring in some fall accents. Mini-pumpkins and gourds grouped in a wooden bowl will accent my dining table, and if I can get Bob to find me a cluster of bittersweet, I’ll add that, too. A petticoat of pretty russet and gold fall leaves will finish it up nicely!
I found a wonderful wrought iron candle holder, and Bob hung it from the pergola over the patio table. It has glass candle holders that will look sparkly and warm when filled with colorful tea lights. All I have to do is figure out a pulley system to raise and lower it so that I don’t have to climb on a chair every time I want to light it!
This evening almost convinced me to have a fire in the chiminea and sit outside. Ah, the beauty of fall…
I am glad now that Bob tilled a raised bed and planted the garlic before the weather turned colder. (I think he thought I wasn’t going to get to it.)
Have you eaten garlic grown in your own garden? It probably is my imagination, but I think it just tastes better than store-bought. In our climate you need to plant in late September or early October, and you can harvest when the tops begin to dry– usually the following August. Then you save the best heads to replant, and use the rest in your cooking. So you only need to buy garlic from a reputable source once, and you can have garlic for years to come.
Plant in a different area each year as you would any vegetable crop, so that you don’t encourage diseases to proliferate.
I bought my original heads from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, a mail order source, but if you can find them from a local farmers’ market seller, that’s even better. If you are going the mail order route, make sure to order a variety that grows well in the north.
Did it get cold quickly, or what? Last week Bob and I were pulling weeds in short sleeves, and today we needed sweaters and jackets. We’ve taken in the tender potted plants for over-wintering, and moved the banana tree and brugmansias to a cool room.
If you have dahlias and cannas still in the ground, now is the time to dig them up. Store them in a box or paper bag covered with peat moss for the winter. The idea is to get them to dry on the surface without drying out all the way through. Put them in a cool dry place and check them periodically for rot or withering. Remove any that show signs of deterioration.