Rotting leaves are an important part of the compost pile, and during autumn, almost everyone has PLENTY! Instead of getting out the leaf blower and pushing them all to the curb, turn as many of them into new soil as possible.
The British company Bos has developed some novel approaches to the dreaded leaf collection. The Bos Bag stands up by itself, so you can use both hands to gather armloads of leaves and dump them into the bag. And Bos Sheets have reinvented the slippery, ravelly old tarp into an indestructible sheet with handles, strong enough to carry heavy branches, garden tools, and anything else you need to haul around the landscape!
Once you've got the leaves contained, toss them into your composter. Today's tumbling models have sped up the process of breaking down plant matter, and if you're new to the process (or have a smaller garden), a good way to get started is with the economical Envirocycle™ Mini Composter/ComposTeamaker™. You'll have fresh soil in just 4 to 6 weeks!
Of course, if you have just a moderate amount of leaves, or if you're looking for a lower-key solution to improving the soil, there are always the Jute Leaf Composting Sacks. You just pop the leaves into these open-weave bags and then throw the bags wherever you need a little new soil. As time passes, the entire sack and everything in it will break down into fresh, nutritious compost! Now, that's easy!
If you can't bear to say goodbye to that beautiful Petunia or Pelargonium, maybe you don't have to! Many "annuals" are really half-hardy perennials, meaning that they will continue to grow for another season if given the right conditions. You can snip them right now, root the cuttings, and have big, healthy plants ready to go for spring!
Here's how to do it:
1. Snip off a few stems from your favorite plants. The stems should be 2 to 6 inches long.
2. Remove any leaves too near the base of the stem (because you will be planting this end!), but leave the big ones at the other end.
3. Dip the base in rooting hormone powder (available for a few bucks at your nursery or big-box store).
5. Place the Bio Dome or container in a low-light indoor area for a few weeks, then tug gently on the cuttings. If they resist, they have begun to root and are ready to go under grow-lights!
6. Place the Bio Dome or container beneath grow-lights for the autumn and winter, making sure they get at least 6 hours of wide-spectrum light each day. They'll be big and branchy by spring!
As the days grow cooler, many of us with vegetable gardens worry about frost killing our final crops of the season. But freezing temperatures, especially in moderation, can actually improve the flavor of some vegetables! Here are some varieties that like a touch of chill:
Brussels Sprouts — Frost actually helps remove the bitterness of this veggie by raising the sugar content!
Cabbage — Light frost (above 25 degrees) gives the leaves an extra sweet bite!
Kale — Frost-tolerant to about 10 degrees, this vegetable definitely improves in flavor when the temperature drops.
Kohlrabi — Another cold-weather lover, it tastes best when Jack Frost has paid a visit or two!
Turnip — As anyone in the south can tell you, these vegetables can be (and often are) left in the ground all winter! The tops die back at about 10 degrees, but the roots remain intact, sweet and fresh.Other vegetables that can tolerate frost but don't seem to experience any flavor improvement include broccoli and spinach. So load up on those Brassica family veggies this season and keep the fresh greens coming well past first frost!
Wondering where you're going to find the place to plant all those glorious spring-blooming bulbs you want? With their exceptionally bright colors and early bloomtime, bulbs offer a unique chance for you to frame favorite garden spots, brighten dull areas, and add spots of color to monochromatic groundcovers.
Consider planting bulbs in these areas:
Last month we asked you to spot this illustration of a tomato on our website, click on it, and enter our contest for a $25 Park Seed Gift Certificate. Eagle-eyed Park gardeners were on the case in no time, and before the dust settled we had dozens of entries. From these, a winner was selected at random:
Nancy S. of Saratoga Springs, NY
The home and garden magazines are full of beautiful fall decorating ideas this month, but we think that Park gardeners can be even more creative with the fruits of their garden! So for our next contest, please send us a photo of your best bit of fall décor. It can be just about anything, from a centerpiece to a mantel display to.... well, show us what you've come up with! Just make sure that it includes something from the garden!
Email us your photo along with your name, city, and state to email@example.com with the subject My Best Fall Decor by Tuesday, October 24, 2011. The winning decorator will receive a $50 Park Seed Gift Certificate, and have their photo displayed in the next edition of Park News. Happy decorating!
October 10 — Columbus Day — "In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue"