House Plants–To Compost or Not?

I mentioned on Monday that this is about the time when I cast a critical eye on the house plant collection and decide what’s coming back inside and what’s becoming compost.

Windowsill space is always an issue and there’s no reason to look at plants that I don’t love. Several of the windows are already nicely filled and no plants have come inside yet.

Many of you may wonder why I take the plants in so early. As a general rule, I try to begin transitioning them in on Labor Day weekend. It doesn’t have so much to do with temperature as it does with light.

If I leave them out a few weeks later–as I have on occasion– when I bring them in, they drop a lot more leaves. So I try to avoid that.

Ruella

This ruellia may not make the cut. There’s nothing really wrong with the plant, but it does nothing for me and the drooping habit is depressing. Who needs depressing plants right now?

Dracena

It’s a good bet this one is gone. Again, the problems speak for themselves (I think). I could try to salvage and root the top, I suppose but why? It’s such a common plant.

Aglaeonema

This is the one I am not sure about. Something–chipmunks? Squirrels? Keeps making a mess and using the pot to cache their nuts. In the process, pieces of the plant are broken and uprooted. I may try to salvage it just before I bring it in. We’ll see.

And there may be others. Because after all, I will need room to aquire a few new plants too.

July is Over–Winter is Coming

Evaluating Annuals

There are many parts of the country that have a lot of warm weather left. I don’t live in one of them. I am famous for saying that we have 2 seasons, winter and July. July is our “summer” and every other month of the year requires some version of fleece and usually lightweight gloves. This year, with its record breaking heat and drought, is no different.

So when late August comes, I begin to evaluate what has done well in the garden–and what I will take a pass on next year. In the case of my petunias, it is going to be a pass, probably for my gardening lifetime.

It’s a shame, too, because I really love petunias and they keep coming out with prettier varieties. But if 6 years isn’t long enough for the petunia worm to forget where I live, forget about it. There are lots of other things to grow.

What has been a delight in this container is the verbena. It’s the first time I have tried it in decades, literally. I only bought it because my choices were fairly limited at the garden center.

I would do it again–and will. My memories of verbena were of a fussy plant that needed deadheading. By midsummer, despite deadheading, it would be covered in powdery mildew. Yuck.

So this year’s version–from Proven Winners–was wonderful! I can’t say enough about how easy and carefree it was–and I was not good at about deadheading either. Definitely a winner.

Next I need to decide which house plants and tropicals make the cut–and if and become compost.

Vine-Ripened Tomatoes

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For any gardener that likes them, there’s nothing like a vine-ripened tomato. Many times, if you’re growing these smaller varieties, they don’t even make it it into the house–they go straight from the plant into your mouth.

In past years, I have done that too. But recently, and especially in this drought year, I have smaller critters so anxious for any moisture at all that they’re stripping–and eating–green tomatoes, something that I have not seen before.

So I have had to resort to some desperate measures myself. Now, when I see even the smallest hint of color on these tomatoes, I snatch them off the plant and bring them inside the kitchen to ripen.

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After all, as cute as this little guy is, I am still not sharing my tomatoes with him or her!

Arborgeddon

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These trees came down during Tropical Storm Isaias. We were fortunate. Anything major that came down, came down in the wooded portion of our property.

As you can see, they were dead. They were left in place deliberately. Standing dead trees provide nesting areas for all sorts of birds–woodpeckers, small owls, chickadees, nuthatches–it is estimated that as many as 85 different kinds of birds will nest in a dead tree, if you can leave one in place safely.

In addition, bats will rest there to consume insects. And the beetles that get under the bark to begin the work of turning the tree into compost can serve as food for birds, chipmunks and squirrels.

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I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is that dead trees only be left if they will not endanger anyone or anything. These fell quite nicely down into the middle of our little woods. If they had been on the edges, near our neighbor’s house, or the power lines, obviously we would have had to remove them before they caused harm.

Walled Off

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This post is another example of a situation where “garden management” left undone has become a huge asset.

Mind you, I am not advocating for this sort of thing. But for a few years, I had unfortunate surgeries that kept me from doing just about anything in the garden–certainly anything as major as pruning large hibiscus syriacus shrubs after they bloom and before they go to seed, as should be done.

And so they self sowed everywhere. As with all weedy plants, I am still dealing with that unfortunate problem.

But in this one instance, the hibiscus actually solved a problem that I had been battling for 20 years in this garden.

This great wall of hibiscus hedge now keeps my neighbor’s riding mower from throwing all sorts of grass and weed seeds into this garden.

I even lost a viburnum to pesticide drift from their property–because of course we don’t spray at all. So there will be no more of that. If anything, some of the great wall of hibiscus might get hit with their toxins–but there’s plenty more where that came from!

Now I just need to keep the “mother plants” pruned after flowering or it will become one great garden of hibiscus!

Petunia Worm

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I haven’t planted petunias for several years–not since 2014, I don’t think. There’s a reason for that. Every time I do, my container starts looking really good–and then all of a sudden all the blooms are gone from the petunias.

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If I am lucky, I might start to see this. That at least tells me that the worms have arrived.

But I am not one to treat a container of annuals with insecticide, even if the recommended treatment is BT. That kills caterpillars but of course butterfly larva are caterpillars too. So I would just as soon uproot the petunias once they start looking ratty.

What does this critter look like?

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He’s right there in the middle right of the photo, a green caterpillar about a quarter inch long. They can be difficult to see because of course they are the same color as the petunia stem.

They also eat annual geraniums and calibrachoa so this planter will need a refresh shortly.

But summer is very short-lived around here so I can refresh my planter with late season plants shortly.

Isaias Aftermath

Tropical storm Isaias roared through Connecticut late afternoon on Tuesday. I had hoped for some beneficial rain since we are in moderate drought. And I really hoped for moderate winds since we live in a heavily treed state and heavy winds with the trees in full leaf is a recipe for disaster.

Of course by now you know what happened but you probably don’t know the exact details. At my house, I had exactly .2″ of rain–so hardly a drought buster. I had to go out the next day with my hose to water.

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And then there was this. Branches and leaves everywhere. This is the small stuff.

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It was a little worse out back by my hydrangeas. I pulled this out of them, in fact.

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And then there’s our pines. They regularly make a mess. This was no exception.

At the time all of this occurred, there was a tornado warning. There was no tornado, but the winds reached 60 mph or more. So we were very lucky–especially since one of our neighbors wasn’t quite so lucky. A pine similar to ours wound up on their house.

About one third of the state still has no power 36 hours later (nevermind no internet, cable or cell service in these work from home days). We are told that it will be “multiple” days until power is back.

2020 is certainly turning into quite a year.