October fills me with a sense of urgency. The days are short and the weather cool. A killing frost certainly will strike within the next couple of weeks, and measurable snowfall is not unheard of. There is no time left for procrastination!
So, what must I do, and soon?
1. Dig up and bring in all the geraniums from the Terrace Garden. I spent too much money on them to just let them die after one summer. I don’t have room for all nine (or ten?) of them in the living areas of my house, so I think I’ll set up a spot for them in the basement under a grow light with a timer. I think it will be sufficient to water them on the same schedule as the orchids (every 10 days, or when the date ends in a zero).
2. Now that I finally brought the houseplants inside (just this afternoon, in fact!), I need to figure out where each of them will spend the winter. It seems like it should be a no-brainer just to put them back where they came from in the spring, but it’s never as simple as that, sometimes even requiring rearrangement of the furniture! Right now most of them are gathered together in my entryway. I have sprayed them with an organic insecticidal soap as a precaution, and I mean to inspect and wipe down each individual pot. I’ve never had an infestation after bringing the plants in, and I don’t wish to start this year! (UPDATE: Done 10/15/14–glad I took the time to inspect and wash each pot, as I found one fuzzy white egg sac on one, and a big, scary spider inside the saucer of another! Also, several need to be moved into bigger pots!)
The fifteen year old Schefflara on the floor has become large and unwieldy; I’m considering taking cuttings of it and starting over. It thrives outside all summer, but really sulks and drops A LOT of leaves once I bring it in. I would hate to just dump it, but I really don’t love it. . .
3. Plant bulbs! Nearly 400, in fact. This year I will be sure to keep track of what and how many went where. I did that two years ago, and was quite glad in the spring to have the records. Last year I did not, and it really bothered me this spring. 4. Decide whether to spray an anti-transpirant, such as Wilt-Pruf, on the boxwoods. The established bushes near the house did suffer some winter-kill last year, and now I have nearly two dozen new babies on the bottom level of the Terrace Garden. I’ll have to look into the cost and perhaps ask the landscaper who planted the new shrubs whether he thinks it’s worthwhile.5. Take stock of the green tomatoes and pick the ones that I think stand a chance of ripening in the house. My sunny windowsill space is limited, so I can’t bring in all of them! Oh, I know I could pack them in a box under a layer of newspaper, but in all honesty, I would forget to check them until a funny smell reminded me of their presence! Out of sight, out of mind! (UPDATE: Done 10/12/14)
6. Pick the rest of the basil leaves and make another batch of pesto for the freezer. I’m pretty sure the growing season for the basil is effectively over, so I may as well take it all! Beth at Garden Fancy posted a recipe that’s different from mine, and I’d like to try it. (UPDATE: Done 10/6/14)
7. On the evening the threat of the first frost seems real, go out and cut all the annual flowers I can to use in bouquets all over the house. Try to remember to do this before I’ve changed into my nightgown and darkness has fallen! Here is what I brought in last year, on the unusually late first frost date of October 23:Some of the zinnias lasted three weeks in the house!
8. Clean out the gardens once the frost has killed everything. It just makes everything easier next spring when I’d much rather plant new things than pull out dead ones!
9. Stage piles of leaves to use as mulch once the ground freezes, or the weather is at least consistently cold. My husband will chop and bag them with the mower, but it will be up to me to move them where I want them. I knelt quite close to the ground to take this picture, and the scent of the crisp, drying leaves was overwhelming! How I wished my children were home that afternoon instead of at band practice so we could have enjoyed some good, old-fashioned autumn fun!
(Hard to believe this was 11 years ago. I remember that day like it was yesterday!)
Which brings me to my final item on the list for this month:
10. Make time to enjoy the fall with my now teenagers! Drag them away from their sundry devises and shuffle through the leaves; drink fresh cider and eat warm cider doughnuts; get lost in a corn maze; carve Jack o’Lanterns; just sit on the back deck to watch and listen to the leaves falling around us. In ten years I won’t remember or care whether the geraniums got brought in on time, but these special moments spent with my children will ingrain themselves indelibly on my memory.