That Time of the Year

This post is about the ugly side of gardening.  As weather forecasts predict freezing temperatures, it’s time to say goodbye to flowers blooming and prepare to protect plants.

autumnchore9Strawberry Gompheras still hang on in the compost pile, but they too will succumb to frost.

aautumnchorePlants will be hauled into these two sheds.  We choose metal sheds for greenhouses because other structures would not hold up to the high winds here.

autumnchoreSo the process begins.  It takes both of us to lift the really large pots.

autumnchore1Load after load has filled up one shed.  It has an electric heater with a thermostat that is set just high enough to keep everything from freezing.

autumnchore2It has already been cold enough to effect the tropical hibiscus.  The humidity from watering will be a cozy environment for most of the plants.  Through the winter I only need to water every two weeks.

autumnchore3All of the plants have been watered.  The floor slopes to a drain in the center.

autumnchore5The second shed does not have heat but is also insulated.  Plants that cannot endure hard freezes but can take some cold are put here.

autumnchore6Yes, the shed is messy but functional.

autumnchore7Between the two sheds are some newly potted roses.  They are protected from direct northerly winds.  Hopefully, next spring these will be planted in new flowerbeds.

autumnchore8I may regret leaving this Umbrella plant out.  But some of the pots are just too heavy.  Notice that the Poinsettias from last year are getting some red brackets.  I’m hoping a little chilly weather will cause more red.

fallMay you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends.

“Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal.  It’s a way to live.”  Jackie Windspear

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Peek in Green House

Can’t wait to find out which outside plants survived the coldest weather we’ve had in many years.  Of course, I’m really hoping that most of the perennials make it.

shedBut the ones in the shed/greenhouse have been toasty warm and thrived.  The 8 year old heater did a good job of keeping the inside from freezing.

shed2There used to be a coiled hose in the greenhouse.  But last year I replaced it with this pocket hose.  It works so much better because it doesn’t get caught on branches and other things  in the shed.  It stretches nicely and is easy to use.  I’m not sure how one would work out in the yard with all the critters to chew on it.

shed3The blooms that were on the Ixora when we put the pot in the shed in early November are still going strong.  Love that bright color and the fact that the flowers last so long.  Of course, it is tropical and must have heat, although the dryness of the air during the summer here doesn’t seem to matter.

shed4The African Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange’) also is healthy.  Last spring I planted some sprigs in the ground.  They did well.  But what are the chances that they will come back?  They are not hardy to 7B, where we are.

shed5This large Aloe Vera always blooms during the winter in the greenhouse but not outside during the summer.  Can’t figure that one out.

shed6I usually see the blooms just after they’ve died, so they must not last a week.

shed7A new bloom is starting at the base.

shed8Kalanchoe also does extremely well in the hothouse environment and blooms better than when outside.  These are ready to be cut back.  So they will provide lots of cuttings to root for our Garden Club plant sale.

The white walls are sheets of styrofoam we cut to fit for insulation.

shed9All these Aloe Vera will be put in the Garden Club sale.  That large Aloe Vera just keeps producing all these pups.

shedd1Part of a fiberglass panel shows in this picture.  These allow wonderful sunlight to flood the shed.

shedd3The Boston Ferns have flourished better than in some past winters in the shed.

shedd4I have learned to move the Tropical Hibiscus away from the heat source.  Tiny white mites tend to cover it in the greenhouse.  But it does better next to the door.  That seems counter intuitive to me.  But it works.

Beside it is a Tricolor Butterfly Bush that I bought late in the fall and potted it just before storing it here.  Hopefully, it will live.  Anyone else anxious to get on with spring?

“Perennial:  any plant which, had it lived, would have bloomed year after year.”  Henry Beard

Twice a Year Chore

One of the dreaded chores of gardening doesn’t occur that often, but we definitely don’t like it.  It involves cleaning out the shed from all the clutter accumulated during the long months when it wasn’t used as a green house and then lugging in the plants.  Our 12′ x 16′ metal shed was built to be used both for storage and protecting potted plants during the winter.  So to make room for the plants, we have to move some tools and other items to the barn.

Almost every year, we carry plants inside after a cold spell, and then it warms up again for another month.  But once, we have put them inside, they stay inside until spring.  In March or April when we hope freezes have passed, we  bring out the plants. This means it has been warm for awhile.  But there have been late freak freezes in past years.

This garden wagon has saved our backs.  For several years we used a wheel barrel, bringing one large pot at a time.  It was tricky not to dump those heavy pots. It still takes both of us.  The two pots shown are smaller and light; but when two large, heavy pots are on board, it takes my husband pulling and me pushing and holding the pots upright.

The first winter we stored plants here, they just barely survived.  We used a heater (the red one in the corner) that responds to temperature.  But the bare metal walls didn’t provide much of a barrier from the cold.

So the following summer, we bought large sheets of styrofoam and cut them to fit around the metal shelves for the walls.  We glued them, but they did not really stick well.  But there are enough pots on the shelves to hold the styrofoam in place.

This large Aloe Vera has become a bugaboo to move.  It tends to be top heavy and gets away from me.  It fell off the cart again this year.  So there are always broken tips on this plant.  We have transplanted it into a bigger pot several times.  So far, it has survived.

The winter after we put the styrofoam up, some of the plants on the floor were shoved up under the bottom shelf.  This still put them too close to the outside cold.  Now we store buckets and extra pots against the wall.  This adds an extra layer of insulation and puts the plants in the sunlight.The shed has a water faucet and a center drain hole in the concrete.  Winter sun shines in a small window on the west side, and four fiberglass roof panels to let in light.

Over the years, my fern collection has grown to six pots of Boston Fern and three pots of Asparagus Fern.  I started with one of each 22 years ago.  Each time we divide them, my husband says no more.  Then the roots get so crowded, it’s a necessity.  It’s difficult to give them away because we’re the crazy ones who are willing to store them in the winter.  OK.  I’m the one that can’t throw them away.

Hey, don’t judge how a gardener looks at the end of a long day working outside in a roaring wind.

I’m so grateful that my husband is willing to help me with my gardening obsession.

“You don’t need a green thumb to be a gardener, just brown knees.”  Author Unknown