SEPTEMBER is my “get ready for winter” month. It’s time to divide and reset certain perennials, to order and plant bulbs, and to acclimate vacationing houseplants for their return to indoor life. Feeling energetic? Good. Because I plan to sip a martini while you do all of the work:
Bulbs. In Kevin-land, it’s impossible to have too many of these. To obtain the best varieties (and the best deals!), do what I do, and order directly from online bulb-specialists. My favorite bulbs for planting indoors and out.
Lilies. Remove faded flowers, but don’t clip foliage until it yellows. I hope your lily patch hasn’t been invaded by this dreadful insect.
And here’s a question for you: How’d your roses perform over summer? Mine, pictured above, were kinda…pathetic. I blame the weather. Two hail storms and three monsoons does not a happy rose garden make.
Broccoli. If you’d like to freeze your autumn harvest, follow these directions.
And don’t forget to make this elegant-but-easy Timbale of Broccoli. It makes a swoon-worthy first course, and you can serve it hot, warm, or cold.
Carrots. Harvest what you need; leave the rest in the ground over winter. At the first spring thaw you’ll have some of the sweetest treats in the world. I speak from experience.
No black silk sheets?
Onions. Harvest, cure and store according to these directions.
Potatoes. Although my potato vines have died back, I certainly won’t harvest the crop until really cool weather arrives (usually the end of October). This way my cellar will be cold, too, and thus better suited for potato-storage. Tubers only keep well in quarters which are dark, humid, and chilly (35-40 degrees F.). How I plant, grow, harvest, and store potatoes.
Tomatoes. To avoid the ravages of late blight, frost, or a severe storm, pick mature fruits while they are still green, and let them ripen in paper bags indoors. I find that a banana placed in each bag really speeds things up.
Herbs. Not sure how to freeze or store your garden’s bounty? I handle matters this way.
Vacationing Houseplants. Gradually condition these to indoor life before nights get cold. By Labor Day, I move mine to the porch where there is less light than in the open and they stay there for two weeks. Prior to their coming in, pots should be scrubbed, foliage cleansed with a firm blast of water, and both pot and plant sprayed with a good insecticide. (If you don’t wish to use insecticide, dislodge pests with a strong spray of water.) This way, plants will be in a clean condition and no pest epidemics will start. Indoors, keep windows open day and night to provide plenty of fresh air through the first weeks. Then there should be a minimum of leaf-drop and general discontent with the home environment.
Make a Window Garden! For the decorative display and easy maintenance of houseplants, you can’t beat a window garden. It took me less than 30 minutes to outfit the (ordinary) window in my upstairs bath (pictured above) for the happy containment of my flowering friends. Story and pictures.
Geraniums (Pelargoniums). I prepare mine for winter-bloom this way.
Petunias, Wax Begonias, Impatiens. Take cuttings now, and root them in pots of good soil. Brought indoors before frost, these tender annuals will provide cheerful bloom during the dark winter months. The how-to.
Amaryllis. Induce dormancy the first week in September. To do this, lay the pot on its side and let the soil dry out. Remove the foliage after it turns yellow and becomes loose, and then bring the plant indoors to a dark and cool place. Give water not more than once every three weeks during the winter rest. Need more details? See my Amaryllis Growing Guide.
Clean Windows — Inside & Out. If, in winter, you want sunlight to enter your home unhindered by grime (I certainly do, and so do my houseplants), you’ll have to perform this odious job. I clean my 57 (ancient) windows this way.
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