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Winter: Time to plan for next gardening season

Posted: October 31, 2013 - 11:26am

Yes, I am still watering the window box. Yes, I regret pulling the tuber begonias out of said box weeks and weeks ago. They are now in forced retirement. Not a place they want to be. 

They were thriving, blooming, happy as can be and what did I do? Consigned them to the basement, solitary confinement. They are still trying to accept their cruel fate. 

Once they have dried I will pull them from their pots, remove the soil, and put each tuber into a brown paper bag and — well, wish them luck. 

Look around town as you dash about your life. There are quite a few window boxes still offering glory. Acknowledge them, you may never see their likes in late October again. Or, this may be the new norm. 

There is only one satisfying end-of-season chore — cleaning the tools. I love to do this. My tools have mostly been bought with the long haul in mind, thus, they are excellent quality and I have had them for years. Taking care of them is part of the equation. 

I learned an interesting lesson about pruners this summer. They require a good cleaning, more so than endless sharpening. I take them into the house and scrub them with dishwashing soap and a brush, dry thoroughly, rub a little vegetable oil over them and they are good to go. Keep this in mind the next time you reach for the sharpening files, maybe they just need to be washed. 

I do the tool cleaning in the empty greenhouse. Rain drumming on the roof and a cup of tea helps this chore immensely. I have a wire brush that is used on the metal parts, a file on the edges and then a squirt of WD 40. If the handles are wooden, a light sanding and a lighter coat of linseed oil takes care of that. I have a tool shed where everything has a place, and there they reside until next season. 

I love my tools, I love taking care of them, and I love my tool shed and the sense of order it has brought to the space. No more jumble of tools leaning against the fence. Is there one in your future? 

This weather is in our plants’ favor. You may gripe about the rain but these warm temperatures are buying time for the untimely new growth that burst forth late in the season to harden off and prepare for winter. The roses and lilacs are looking a tad more mature and ready to face whatever may come their way. 

And we all know, something will come their way. Hopefully it won’t be suffocating ice. 

We simplified the compost operation this year. I have given up the bins. No more turning compost. I know, it worked so well, sort-of-finished compost in two weeks. I reveled in it. 

But, the truth is, I am done turning compost. We have gone back to a rather huge pile. Longer rather than high with new material working its way to aged so we always know what end to work from. I compost everything. Nothing goes into the garden to rot on its own. Only finished compost goes onto the garden plots and that happens in the fall. This works for me. You may have a different method but if you haven’t any method at all, try mine. 

The greenhouse grows in compost, fresh every year. It is all ready to roll for the coming season. Being ready for an early start makes more sense than trying to prolong the season when the days get shorter. Plants love daylight and as soon as ours starts to check out the plant activity is over. Keep this in mind. 

If you don’t have a greenhouse and really and truly want one, really and truly know how much work they are, then now is the time to get one up. There are any number of them locally available so get going on that. Remember, it’s an early start that you are attempting, when the days get longer. 

Years ago I had a flurry of garden book buying activity. I have hardly added to the collection because I quickly learned how little of it is relevant to us. But I do love to look at them and, over the years, have marked the pages that I can actually use. I am looking forward to this winter to pull them all out and glean some ideas for the coming growing season. I know, it seems so far away, especially since this one is still hanging on. But the death of all my perennials is something that needs to be reckoned with and not in a panic. 

Use your winter wisely, make plans but be prepared to be flexible. We don’t know what the winter will bring. 

On that note, the Kachemak Gardener will resume in the new year. 

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.

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