Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Looking Back

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

3:30 AM and Karl has gone back to bed but the rest of us are in various states of diminished slumber and are a bit grouchy. The moon is bright outside, the temperature 27 degrees and the wildlife is apparently in abundance, having a late dinner/early breakfast that is stirring adrenaline in Karl the Wonder Dog. In today's world it's nice to have a watch dog that really "watches" but it's also nice to be able to sleep. I've toured both sides of the house looking for large animals, deer, moose, coyotes or bear but all I see is the brightness of the moon.

November is well upon us and with it is the rain and snow we expect in Vermont. After a very cold start which put ice on every pond, the temperature rose for a week and good gardeners reveled in the opportunity to push the fall clean up a little further, plant a few more bulbs, transplant a few more perennials. For us that was a chance to continue on at the nursery, preparing more areas for next season.

Six new daylily beds have been prepared and two were planted in October. The remaining three have been well rototilled and spread with calcium sulphate to break down the clay. The new shade garden has been prepared as far as I can work it for this fall and now we're bringing in rocks to make another daylily display garden parallel to the parking area. We're also laying out the bones of a sedum garden close to the check out area where we can keep an eye on plants we're just learning about.

At the nursery all the pots have been lined up and are ready to be covered for the winter. If the weather holds today and Gail gets some help as expected, the day will end with the final project finished for the season.

Once the pots are lined up in rows ten feet wide and "however" long, we randomly lay out 2" PVC pipe cut to 2 foot lengths and filled with a cup of D-con mouse and vole control. We use the granular variety not the blocks so that the pieces don't get carried around and dropped where dogs or kids might find them come spring. Rodent control is a big importance in a nursery because one winter's damage can be devastating and very costly. Rodents always go after the most expensive, most difficult to propagate or obtain perennials. For some reason the red vole population is excessive this year and I may have to revisit the pipes mid-winter to better deal with a rodent that does not hibernate.

With the pipes in place, we roll out white insulated fabric as the first measure to protecting our potted plants. You have to remember that water and the freeze-thaw process we experience in January in Vermont are the two threats to potted plants. If you can keep the pots frozen and dry, they will defrost come spring and grow on in good health.

Years back before the insulating blankets were available, we placed all the pots on their sides and covered them with leaves, then construction grade 6 mil plastic. This worked well and is still an option if you cannot find the insulating blankets where you live or don't want to purchase a 100 foot roll. That's generally the minimum commercial size. This is a spun fiber blanket 3/8" thick and 12 feet wide. It has a life of five years but if you keep it modestly clean at the end of the season and roll it up, store it out of the sun, and cover it from the weather, it will probably last twice that long. It's artificial and probably some petroleum by-product, one step away from polar fleece. Once that's rolled out, we cover it with 6 mil plastic weighted down by old tires. As long as you tuck in the sides and corners so wind can't get in, you'll be successful in "wintering over" your plants.

Keep this freeze-thaw-water conversation in mind if you attempt to over winter any potted plants outside. If you have any large containers, especially decorative ones, be sure to cover them well so they don't freeze and split. Your loss could be bigger than the plants if you don't remember this. Gail has a couple large antique urns in her collection and we empty them completely each year as we have no trust at all for Mother Nature when dealing with something which cannot be replaced.

By now you're probably wondering why the picture at the top of hostas in a foggy garden setting when in fact the ground is covered with snow outside and I've already said the temperature is "cold". The picture is our hosta garden here at the house. It was taken in June when the hostas looked great just after a rain storm. I simply want to mention that this winter I want to explain a little more about hostas and give some examples of what I have done with them in our gardens at the house. Our other blog, Vermont Gardens, will parallel this writing with a presentation on the new shade garden we are creating. Lots going on, mentally and physically at Vermont Flower Farm!

As we look back on this summer, we can only admire the work we accomplished and the new friends we made. Right this minute, I'm looking back on slumber.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where it's quiet...that's nice!

George Africa

The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm


Susan Tomlinson said...

Wow, very interesting stuff, George. Sounds like a bundle of work. Well done.

I' always wondering what seasonal businesses do in the off-season, so this was some terrific insight.

joey said...

Sleep well, George. A job well done!

Aerie-el said...

That is an impressive bit of work! The shade garden is beautiful and reminds me of the Heritage Gardens in Sandwich...though yours look even more stunning.

Do you use anything (environmentally-friendly of course) to keep the slugs and/or snails away from your hostas, or are there enough plants that you don't notice when the critters nibble away?

George Africa said...

Aerie-el, in the land of my favorite Seattle asks about environmentally, pet and people friendly means of controlling the critters that eat up hostas such as slugs.

The hint(s) for this answer, specific to Seattle could be Starbucks or Tully's, two coffee giants. Vermont's own Green Mountain Coffee recently bought Tully's and is taking on the west coast so there's even bigger eco- friendly solutions for slugs.

Here's the story in brief. Coffee grounds, spread under hosta, will move slugs to a different world while adding to the organic possibilities of your garden soil. I understand that this conclusion about the merits of using coffee grounds came as an offshoot to research in Hawaii on tree frogs. The frogs were making big noise during their mating cycle which coincided with the time when the islands housed many tired tourists. The research was intended to quiet the noisy frogs but also found that caffeine killed slugs. A simple spray of Vitamin c/citric acid quieted the frogs which still mated and everyone was happy!

Years back when I first heard of this possibility I tried it with a large plant of Saishu Jima which is a slug magnet if there is one. I like smaller hostas and always was bothered by Saishu just looking good before the slug army invaded. Anyway it worked to my pleasure and I have been using coffee grounds ever since. My problem is I have more hostas than coffee grounds and haven't been able to score a relationship with a coffee shop or restaurant yet. Just the same, give it a try and get away from chemicals.



Aerie-el said...

Fascinating! Way cheaper than Escar-go or Sluggo AND good for the soil to boot. Excellent.
Thanks, George!