Sunday, September 25, 2016

Just A Light Kiss

Last evening had all of the indicators for an overnight frost.  After sunset the temperature plummeted and the clear darkened skies were filled with stars.  All of the tender plants that we intend to save were in pots in the basement.  We awoke this morning to find the air densely filled with fog.  River valley fog drops copious quantities of liquid moisture on every exposed surface.  If any frost had developed it was soon washed away.   An early walk through the garden near the house revealed no frost damage.  Basil leaves were free of black slime.  We have some doubt about the moon flower buds but rarely do they open here.

The garden by the woods told a slightly different story.  Only a few squash and pumpkin leaves were blackened by frost.  This garden is at a higher elevation and at a greater distance from the river.  River valley fog is less dense here and the damaged leaves were close to the ground.  Where the vines had climbed the fence all of the leaves escaped damage.  Only a few of the leaves closer to the ground were blackened by frost.  How one leaf dies while those nearby escape damage remains a mystery.

River valley fog is both a curse and a blessing.  Most September nights here had fog form.  Wet foliage is prone to develop powdery mildew and the low sun allows moisture to remain on some leaves into the afternoon..  The leaf in to picture shows only mildew spots but many nearby are totally spotted and dead.  These leaves had died at the hands of the fog while last night the fog saved nearly everything from frost.  With any luck we may see several frost free nights here.  Pesto season lives on.

The garlic bed is ready to plant.  This area supported only growth from missed potatoes this year.  Corn was scheduled to be planted here but the dryness of May told us not to bother.  We did weed the potatoes and harvested a respectable crop.  A measure of compost was raked in several weeks ago and the ground was allowed to rest nearly free of weeds.  Today well aged compost from the lower garden was mixed with Miracle-Gro potting soil.  We have never used potting soil in planting beds but our dear friend Helen does.  Her gift of garlic performed better here than anything else we planted.  Sixty planted cloves produced sixty healthy plants.  Not willing to argue with success and wanting to use her idea here, we parted with the big bucks.  The first layer of the compost mix was turned into the soil.  The second layer was left undisturbed at the surface.  When the cloves are planted in mid October we hope to find the soil lose enough to plant without another session with the potato hook.  It we need to do that it will bring new weed seeds to the surface.  When the garlic cloves are returned to the soil, we feel that next year's garden is actually underway.

Friday, September 23, 2016

September Frost Forecast

In this part of New York State, September frosts have become all too common.  Today was a hot humid scorcher but frost warnings have been posted for tomorrow night.  We insist on growing and carrying over plants native to the tropics.  One light kiss of frost will end them.  They need to be moved into the house now.

The first step in separating this plant into smaller pieces is to insert two spades into the root mass.  Lemon grass will divide easily once the tangle of roots have been pried apart.  Pushing the spade forks into the root mass is the most difficult part of this job.  One can almost hear the plant scream out.

This clump of lemon grass spent the summer planted out as a garden plant.  Native to India it is accustomed to heat, floods and drought.  Here it experienced all of that and more.  We have found that it survives division and placement in a pot if it is watered heavily.  In this photo the two spades back to back are rocked against each other to pry the root mass apart.

As violent as it appears, little damage is done to the plant.  With the root mass separated, gentle tugs disengage the crown.  The near spade is an English product made by Smith and Hawkins.  When Amy lived and worked in New York City she purchased this tool for us in Manhattan.  It rode with her as a subway took them to Brooklyn.  Then a ride on a commuter train headed north was part of a weekend trip home.  My spade is well traveled and is only used to divide plants.  We will not risk breaking it on heavier work.

Two intact pieces of the original plant have been placed into three gallon pots.  Plants roots will quickly be pressing against the pot sides but the root mass is of sufficient size to allow its return to the garden in the late spring.  Now the pans full of water will give the transplant a generous soaking not unlike monsoon rains.  Tomorrow they will look as stately as they appear now.

These two plants will spend the winter on either side of the mostly glass front entry door.  Ample sunshine and active air currents there have always brought these plants through their season indoors in fine condition.  June seems so far away now but it will find us and these plants will return to the great outdoors.