After taking a week off to enjoy the holiday, spend time with family, and celebrate my birthday, we are back with the final edition of ‘What’s Growing on in the Garden’ for the season. It was nice to take some time to relax and reflect on what I’m thankful for, which, it turns out, is a lot, including all of the readers of Thistle Be the Day. I’m humbled that others want to read my enthusiastic garden musings and genuinely hope that all of you were also able to find reasons to be thankful. It’s hard to believe that it is now December and that the new year is quickly approaching. Time flies when you’re having fun playing in the soil! Despite the cooling temperatures and shorter days, November was a busy month in the garden, as we prepared to say goodnight until spring.
In early November, the task of planting our garlic was front and center on the ‘to-do’ list. This year, I placed my cloves in a raised bed that is a repurposed old sandbox. Using this season’s biggest and best bulbs, I planted 55 cloves from our harvested garlic. I’m growing two varieties: Italy Hill Giant and what I affectionately call Hubbell House Garlic, a mixture of types that I have grown, saved, and replanted over the years in my garden. Once I planted the individual cloves, I covered the entire bed with a generous layer of shredded leaves and straw-tucked in tight for their long winter’s nap. “Goodnight, garlic, sleep tight; I can’t wait to see you in spring’s early light.”
We took our annual trip to Catskill Animal Sanctuary to feed our pumpkins to the pigs during the first week of November. It has become a fall tradition in our household to donate our pumpkins to the sanctuary, where the rescued pigs excitedly devour them. Our leftover carved Halloween creations, as well as the pumpkins we grew in the garden this season, were all hauled to the sanctuary for the pig’s enjoyment. It is so satisfying (and comical) to watch a pumpkin that you grew become a delectable treat for a pig! I’ll take that over putting them on the compost pile any day!
On November 4th, our first hard frost blanketed the landscape, leaving a dazzling display of ice crystals shimmering in the morning sun. As beautiful as it was, I knew with a sinking feeling in my heart that this marked the end of the blooming beauties in the garden. Nevertheless, I was able to capture a few photos of these blooms, cloaked in sparkles, as if in the final act of a Broadway show before the curtains draw to a close. How gorgeous they looked before turning to a brown mush later in the day when they thawed. I couldn’t complain, however, as the first frost was much later than in years past, and I enjoyed an extra month of flowers in the garden.
The first frost signaled that other garden tasks needed to be completed quickly as the threat of significant snow loomed. So I tucked 300 tulip bulbs into bed, destined to be part of a brilliant spring display. My hopes and dreams planted alongside them as I imagined their blooms might be the start of a new path in my life. I planted single tulips, double tulips, and parrot tulips in various shades of pink, purple, white, and green tightly side-by-side, as is customary in cut flower production. I eagerly await their spring performance, but until then, “Goodnight, tulips, sleep tight; I can’t wait to see you in spring’s early light.”
Mid-November had me scrambling to accomplish my first ever dahlia dig! It was my first season growing dahlias, and I was completely smitten with them. However, I knew that there was still much work left to do when the flowers stopped blooming in my growing region. In our cold winter temperatures, the tubers will rot if left in the ground. So, off to the garden, I marched with my pitchfork in hand. I spent the afternoon digging and washing clumps of dahlia tubers that I unearthed from the soil. I was amazed by how much they had grown in one season! One tuber multiplying into many that could potentially, when divided, give you more plants!
I was relieved upon close inspection to find an absence of gall, another lucky break for this first-time dahlia grower. Dividing and storing the tubers was a lesson in patience and second-guessing myself. “Is that an eye? I think it is, maybe, or maybe not” and “Should I cut it here, or there?” and “How should I store them? I’ve only read about a gazillion tips and storage methods, but they’re all different!” Time will tell if I performed these tasks correctly. All I know is, in the spring, if all (or even some) of my stored tubers survive, I will have A LOT more plants than I started with. The thought of more flowers brings me both joy and apprehension as I realize that I may not have space for them. This lack of space could also possibly be because I may have (ahem) bought several more varieties in the meantime. Oh well, I’m a gardener! I’ll find room somewhere, or I can always give them away to fellow gardener friends. If they’re like me, they won’t be able to refuse a gifted plant. “Good night, dahlia tubers; sleep tight; I can’t wait to see you in spring’s early light.”
With the big dahlia dig complete, I was ready to put the rest of the garden to bed for the winter. Leaves were mulched and spread on the beds, straw was tucked around some perennial plants, and poppy seeds were distributed on the Pollinator Playground. As I worked, I started to dream of the possibilities for the next growing season. Plans that include a garden expansion, revitalized fencing, a new potting/propagation shed, and a different direction towards cut flowers all danced in my mind. It is going to be a great gardening season next year; I can feel it! And as I closed that garden gate for the last time until spring, I whispered, “Good night, garden, sleep tight; I can’t wait to see you in spring’s early light.”