GARDENING: When frost comes in, so do the plants
You might have noticed the hoarfrost on your daily morning walk. Frosty is here to stay for a couple of months and now would be a great time to use it to your benefit by planning for the warmer months just before gelid temperatures end our garden endeavors. There are both pros and cons of the incoming cold weather.
Cozy those bulbs outdoors in the ground soon
Use the daytime tepid weather for planting flower bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips, before it becomes frigidly unwelcoming. Getting them in the ground now gives enough time for their roots to establish for at least 10 to 12 weeks prior to blooming. Technically there is still time to get them in, but with chilly temperatures and hardening soil, it might just be a tad bit uncomfortable to be gardening with stiff fingers.
Each type of bulb has its own preferred planting depth for them to sprout abundantly, but the general rule of thumb is to shovel a hole that is three times the size of the bulb deep for optimum growth. So, a 1-inch bulb needs to be planted at a 3-inch depth. One other factor is to make sure the area is not soggy, which affects the bulb’s health and could lead to rot. Having a sandy, loamy soil with lots of drainage helps the roots reach out and form.
The method of planting will determine your floral arrangement in the spring. You can plant them in a row, separated at regular intervals, to get soldier straight stalks, or you can plan a bouquet by digging a large hole and placing bulbs with varied colors in free form, just as you would contrive in a vase.
Even though bulbs store some food to help the plant grow, they would also appreciate some more organic bulb food added to the soil before planting. This is the only chance you get to reach below the soil of the bulb. Once planted, give them a good splash of water as the well-draining soil will only take the amount of moisture the bulb needs, while steering away excess moisture to prevent rot.
Defy winter and bring your delicates in
Plants which are not frost hardy need to be brought inside to continue life indoors. Another option is to overwinter them in your garage.
Coleus has a flaming range of colors whose cuttings will bring the memory of summer indoors during the dreary winter months. Storing tuberous begonias in a cool, dry place such as an unused cabinet or shelf will bestow a longer life to it. If you leave it outdoors, it becomes a watery mess.
Most hardy or tender perennials will go through winter dormancy by shedding leaves or just slowing their growth and conserving their energy. Some tender perennials surprise us by being able to withstand harsh elements with a little care. An effective care routine can include mulch, or even covering the area with garden fabric. Mulch not only retains moisture along with the aesthetic, but also provides a barrier against frost. Layering the roots of frost-sensitive perennials with mulch will keep them snug and tight.
Some plants do better in covered areas or near obstructions, such as trees or walls, where they are not left wide open for cold air to blow in from all directions. Horticulture or garden fabric is another great way to shield fragile plants, such as fuchsia, which sometimes live through the winter and prove their resilience. Fabric protection not only traps the heat in but also blocks insects and prevents disease spread. It serves the dual purpose as an excellent windbreaker during cold months and shade from summer heat.
It might be disappointing to not be able to garden outdoors now, but preserving our emotional investments allows us to proverbially sow those seeds for when the weather warms up again. Plants can thrive against the odds, but require a little help from the gardener. A temporary tropical paradise indoors is just what they need, and may also be what you need to make the long winter bearable.