All gardeners are busy in the spring. Perennial gardeners also experience a frenzy in the fall when the first freeze is predicted. That for me, in my part of North Carolina, is early next week.
So for two days I have been furiously washing, watering, cutting and digging. This is crunch time. Any non-hardy, precious perennial left out to freeze may perish.
I have dozens of potted plants. These have to be moved in. Some stay upstairs and continue to look great. Others go to my basement workshop. Some of these basement-dwellers sit in the windows and continue to grow. Others are put away from the windows to go into their winter rest/dormancy period.
Then there are the plants in my son’s Koi pond, my husband’s banana trees and my daughter’s collection of avocado trees. I try not to get involved with these, but I usually need to assist. I have a dozen cute little key lime trees that I bring in for safe-keeping. I have planted some out in the garden this fall, but fear they will not survive.
I have thousands of plants in my gardens. Some of these need to be dug up and stored in various ways. You must know when to dig and how to store them.
Then there is the matter of seed collection. I am guilty of doing this at the last minute. Seeds must be dried and stored properly or you will have bags of mold in the spring.
These tips may be too late for my northern friends, but you southern gardeners need to get busy. Let’s start with plants growing in the garden.
Pineapple Lilies/Eucomis: Dig before frost, leave some soil on the bulbs, cut off the bloom stalk(save some seeds) slow down watering and allow to go dormant.
Elephant Ears: Let the stalks die back in a freeze, then cut off the limp and gooey stalks and bring in the “bulb.”
I usually cheat and cut some ears off each before the freeze so there are fewer mushy stems to deal with.
Dahlias: Let the freeze “wilt” the leaves, then bring the bulbs in and store bulbs in vermiculite.
Gladiolas: Lift before the freeze, but leave the leaves attached. Cut back after they turn brown. Sometimes I leave the old fashioned glads out and gamble, but my Orchid glads (Acidanthera) are coming in.
Japanese Sacred Lilies: I bring some of these in just in case we have a harsh winter. Since they are good luck, I figure losing them would be bad luck.
Fairy/Rain Lilies: These are planted in pots with other plants. The sweet things bloom during the winter.
Now, let’s talk house plants. You should NOT wait until the night of the freeze to rush these in to warmth and safety. If you do, you may bring in some unwanted guests with them. Earwigs, spiders, millipedes, centipedes, ants, earthworms and even lizards like to take up residence in the plants and in the soil.
You must encourage these little critters to move out before moving the pots inside. I remove all saucers from beneath the pots and generously flood each pot with water several times. I have found critters and eggs hidden in the saucers and in the holes of the pots. I do prevent larger fauna from entering pots from the bottom by covering the drainage holes with plastic needle-point mesh from the craft store.
Check plants themselves for nests and parasites. I love baby praying mantises, but I don’t want several hundred skittering around in my library. The same goes for baby spiders.
If a house plant has gotten too big over the summer, I cut it back and root the cuttings. These include hibiscus plants and vines. It’s a great way to keep a favorite plant going and being able to share it with friends.
So get busy my southern gardening friends. The countdown has started.
Follow the FLOWER. Hurry.