Yet the season’s soft shades of brown and beige can envelop us in a mantle of tranquility after a busy growing season. Now that we have “fallen back” with our clocks, we realize that we are …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
Yet the season’s soft shades of brown and beige can envelop us in a mantle of tranquility after a busy growing season.
Now that we have “fallen back” with our clocks, we realize that we are truly in the midst of late fall and the above-ground growing season is over. Yet our plants are still alive and quietly restoring themselves underground.
As we complete such end-of-season tasks as leaf raking for mulch and our compost piles, discarding insect-harboring debris and planting those last few bulbs, we need to recognize both the continuous cycle of nature and the miracle of our gardens.
In the spring we optimistically drop miniscule seeds into seemingly barren earth. We water and eagerly await the first green shoots that soon develop into robust harvest-producing plants.
This, admittedly, was not our best growing year, but we gardeners complain a lot. No year is perfect; it’s too hot, too dry, too wet, too windy, etc. Yet, we must give thanks for the miracle of our gardens with their bounty and color before we eagerly plan for the next season.
November weather can be balmy or snowy, but some outdoor tasks still await. Young trees up to three years should have their trunks wrapped to prevent them from being damaged during our notorious freeze/thaw winter cycles. All nurseries carry this inexpensive wrap.
Rough spade garden beds so that winter can break down our heavy clay soil and also spread manure if you can locate some. Rabbit and chicken manures are especially rich.
Q. Whenever I bring my houseplants indoors after a summer on the patio, they droop, lose leaves and/or blossoms and sometimes even die. What’s wrong?
A. Your plants are reacting to the lessening of light, both in duration and intensity. Our days are naturally shorter and that factor, plus the low light of our homes, sends your houseplants into a mild state of shock. The leaf drop is a plant’s survival mechanism.
Give your plants as much light as possible and diminish the amount and frequency of watering. This will enable your plants to rest and replenish their energies until light increases in February. You can’t flog a dead horse and you can’t revive an already-dying/drowning plant with water.
Q. I become so depressed at this time of the year when nothing is blooming outdoors. Can you suggest some indoor plants that might be colorful? My condo has strong east exposure.
A. Look for African violets, begonias and plants with colorful foliage such as coleus, variegated spider plants and the velvety purple gynura. If your light is strong enough, buy a small cactus or succulent plant to remind you of hot deserts. Don’t water these at all for now. Then enjoy your visits to nurseries with all their lush verdancy.
Q. I now have five Christmas cacti that I’ve received as gifts over the years. Although they are all healthy plants, most have never bloomed at all. One has produced only the occasional blossom. How do I get these to bloom, or should I just discard them? I don’t need more green plants.
A. Christmas cacti, not really cacti but epiphytes, bloom as the amount of daylight lessens. Therefore, you need to place your plants in a location that is TOTALLY dark for 10-12 hours each night beginning about Oct. 1. Reduce watering a bit to just moistening the top few inches of soil, rather than a thorough soaking.
I have mine outdoors in a protected area, as long as temperatures permit. Then I remove my plants to a cool, sunny basement window. Since I rarely use my basement, the plants receive light naturally.
Although it’s a little late, start the treatment now and enjoy late winter color.
Q. What is the secret to over-wintering geraniums indoors? Mine always rot.
A. Geraniums are sun lovers and our houses lack sufficient light for their comfort, especially during the short, dark days of winter. However, it IS possible to over-winter them if you have a good sunny south exposure and if you drastically decrease watering. Water only when they seem to droop. Depending on the size of the plant and its container, this means once every 10 days to two or more weeks. Mine are in a cool basement window, so I water them once a month until February when daylight increases. Then, I gradually increase the watering. Experiment with your plants, but you are more likely to kill geraniums by over-watering than by under-watering.
Q. Will a forgotten package of lettuce seed still be good in the spring?
A. Yes, but why not plant it now in a sunny spot? It will germinate early after the snow melts and be ahead of the new plantings.
As nature winds down to a more quiet and tranquil time, it is our cue to at least briefly slow our own lives. Quietly walk and meditatively notice the subtle variations of brown and beige in the landscape palette.
Above all, make time to give thanks for nature’s bounty during this quiet Month of The Falling Leaves and of Thanksgiving.
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.