Charlie’s Late September Newsletter
I know I have readers around the country and world, but in my area, summer is back! We’re having the high 80F, dry days we normally have in August, except it’s late September. It’s actually great. The evenings and mornings are cool, while the days warm up enough for a cool swim. It’s also helping my peppers, sweet potatoes and melons ripen after a slow start to summer.
But late September is also about planning your plantings for next spring. Spring flowering bulbs are high on everyone’s list, but what if you don’t have much room to plant them in the ground? Why not try planting bulbs in a pot? I talk about growing bulbs in containers and how to get them to succeed.
I will also cover planting bulbs, among many other topics, in my Fall for Gardening Webinar on October 5th from 7 to 8:30pm Eastern time. Consider joining me to learn about all the fall chores to do to make your garden ready for spring. Check out the details of this fall webinar here.
With the sunny weather, the asters are blooming like the stars they are in the landscape. I talk about growing these native beauties in your yard for your enjoyment and for the butterflies and bees.
Another crop that shines in September are the gourds. I’ll talk about the common, small warty ones and the hard shelled ornamental ones used for bushels, utensils and musical instruments.
I’m back from my trip to the Loire Valley in France and Paris. It was magnifique! We saw opulent and small private gardens, community gardens, home gardens, did a cooking class, drank wine, ate goat cheese, and learned about growing mushrooms in caves. And then we got to Paris to do more viewing of gardens and eating! Check out the photos and stayed tuned for my next excursion.
Until next time, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.
Planting bulbs in the ground now for spring blooms is a good way to surprise yourself next year. They seem to pop out of nowhere to delight us. But what if you don’t have room to plant? Try growing bulbs in a pot. It’s simple, but does take some planning to be successful. Here’s how to do it.
This time of year purchase a selection of small, medium and large sized bulbs. Select large-sized daffodil bulbs. The larger the diameter the bulb, the more flowers you’ll get the first year so it’s worth spending a little more for big bulbs. Then purchase medium-sized tulips. Experiment with the unusual “blue” tulips, such as ‘Magic Lavender’ and ‘Blue Moon’. They are more purple, than blue, but they are beautiful. Finally, buy some small bulbs, such as snowdrops, crocus and scilla.
Select a 1-4 to 16-inch diameter pot, add potting soil to the bottom so that when you place the large daffodil bulbs, they are about 8 inches deep. Cover with more potting soil then place the tulip bulbs on top of that layer, about 4 to 6 inches deep. Cover those tulips with soil and plant the small bulbs about 2 inches deep on top. Plant thickly so the bulbs on each layer are almost touching. Water well, then place in a cool where temperatures are between 40 and 45F, such as a basement, for 3 to 4 months. If you don’t have a basement, you can create a smaller pot, cover it with a plastic bag to tuck it in the refrigerator. Bulbs need to winterize before they can grow properly in spring. After that time period, bring them into a sunny, cool room and let them start growing. Once new growth is spied, move them to a warmer room and start watering. Or, leave them in storage until spring and place them outdoors to brighten your doorstep, balcony or porch.
Nothing says fall in the Northeast like asters. While goldenrods start the fall flowering show, I like asters because they bloom later and longer, often during our fall foliage season. There are two types of asters. The New England aster grows about 3 feet tall and is generally carefree. The New York aster only grows 2 feet tall and some varieties can have disease problems, but they come in a range of flower colors such as white, red, and pink. They both provide color in the garden when all other perennials are winding down or being cut back. Plus, they spread over time filling in a perennial border.
Plants tall asters in flower borders with goldenrods, ornamental grasses, sedums and monk’s hood. Plant them close together so they support each other and don’t flop over. Otherwise, cage or tie them to a stake. You can also pinch the tops in July each year to make the plant grow shorter and bushier.
After 3 or 4 years your asters may need dividing. Divide in spring making 1 foot diameter sections from your plants. Replant in full to part sun on well-drained, moist soil. Asters flower best if the ground doesn’t dry out in summer.
Asters also grow well in containers is you select dwarf varieties such as ‘Purple Dome’. They will need protection in winter in colder areas, so move the planter into a cool basement, garage or bury it in a wood or soil pile. Asters also are butterfly and bee magnets. They love the star-shaped flowers and are attracted to the plants in abundance since few other flowers are blooming.
On my recent tour of the gardens of the Loire Valley in France, we visited Chateau Valmer which featured a kitchen garden and a hundred foot long tunnel of gourds. They were hanging down and it was easy to bump into these beauties as you walked through the tunnel. Gourds are decorative and utilitarian plants. They shine in fall with their bright colors or unusual shapes. The small warty, colorful gourds are usually just used for decorating. They won’t last long in the garden or indoors, but are beautiful additions to the fall table.
Gourds are in the cucurbit family and like to vine. The smaller gourds can be grown on the ground. Mulch under plants to prevent them from rotting on the damp soil. The hard shelled gourds need support. Grow them on a strong trellis, pergola or fence. Train them to climb up and over so the gourds hang down through the enclosure. Wait until these gourds are full size, but harvest before a frost. Wash the skin with a soapy water solution to disinfect them, place them in an airy, location to dry completely. It may take months. Once you hear the seeds rattling inside, it’s time to carve and create.
In Our Garden: Loire Valley France
Many of your know about my European Garden Tours and some have even joined me. Thanks for coming! This September we went to the Loire Valley in France. It was fabulous. We saw large chateau gardens of kings and queens, a chateau dedicated to growing hundreds of varieties of tomatoes and dahlias, an international flower show, and large formal French gardens. But we also visited small estates, private gardens and even a community garden. Oh, and we also toured Monet’s famous garden outside Paris in Giverny.
You can’t go to France without eating and drinking. We had a cooking class, visited wineries, mushrooms caves and a goat cheese operation.
For those who couldn’t come check out a few photos from our trip and stay tuned for my next garden adventure.