Garden Diary - September 2020

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Preparing for Winter

Monday, 21 September 2020

Tomorrow is the first day of fall, beginning with the autumnal equinox, night and day of equal length. That's the astronomical equinox, which is based on where the Sun is positioned in relation to the Earth. Just to complicate things there is also meteorological fall: September, October, and November.

According to my rooftop weather station we have been having some rather chilly nights. It was actually as low as 32.9° Fahrenheit. Not quite so chilly down on the ground but still a good warning that it is time to bring tender plants that have been enjoying a summer vacation outdoors back into the greenhouse.

First things first. I took the shade cloth down from inside the greenhouse. Washed whatever inside glass is not covered with bubble wrap. That's after I re-attached any bubble wrap loosened by wren that flutter around some mornings, trapped inside when the roof vents close as temperatures drop in the evening. Started wiping down the wire shelves. And bird poop on the walls.

First in, the most tender of the tropicals.

The half dozen or so fancy leaf rex begonias in pots - those are easy.
Other rex begonias - like 'Moonlight' - are planted in the ground.

Three of them, larger than when they were planted out.
They need to be dug and potted up, then moved inside.

Begonia 'Sparks Will Fly' must also come into the greenhouse. Like
its parent, Begonia boliviensis, it is tuberous. The stems will wither
and dry tuber, pot and all, is kept on the greenhouse floor under a bench.

Four o'clocks, Mirabilis jalapa, could be raised from seed in spring to flower the same summer. I prefer to dig the tubers and store, separated by color in dry peat moss in the basement.


'Orange Crush'


Their cousin, our native Mirabilis longiflora, gets hauled into the garage pot and all, left dry.

Plants in pots, especially plants in pots that want to sleep the winter away are the easiest. Eucomis, pineapple lily, get hauled in, in their pots, and put on shelves in the basement. Ditto hippeastrum, commonly called amaryllis.

Voodoo lily, Sauromatum guttatum, is even easier. It turns out

it is winter hardy here in New Jersey. Perhaps too enthusiastically so.

Amorphophallus must be dug but can sit, unwrapped on a basement shelf.

That's it, to the left of the red spot bananas. Which will also have to come inside.

I think that this winter I will try unpotting the 5 or so red spot bananas. Next, wrap their soil balls in newspaper and bag them up. Lay them down horizontally, somewhere, in the basement or the garage and ignore them until spring.

I have been wintering over canna tubers for many, many years. Cut back after frost, dig, shake off loose dirt. Let sit for a few days. Pack in black plastic bulb crates lined with black plastic garbage bags, "stratified" which is to say layered with peat moss to keep tubers from touching each other. musaefolia tubers can be distinguished but the others must be labeled. I like the bulb crates because they can be stacked 6 or 7 high in the garage.


'Bengal Tiger'

banana canna

Not as much fun as planting in spring but still a hopeful part of the gardener's year.

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