Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Next Year's Garden

Almost without notice the focus of how I spend my garden time has shifted from the current garden to next year's garden. Peas, potatoes and garlic were harvested from these beds this year. Their plant residue and weeds have been replaced with buckwheat. Densely planted buckwheat shades out newly emerging weeds and supplies a generous layer of green manure for next year's chosen crop. It should be cut down before it sets seed or buckwheat will be next year's dominant weed. Bees swarm to the flowers so the plants remain uncut for now. It quite a thrill working next to all of the bees feeding on the buckwheat flowers. Stinging me is the last thing on their minds but I am careful not to stick my nose into an occupied flower.

The basal rosette of young plants points to this Cardinal flower's focus on next year's plants. How a plant that multiplies so freely can be a short lived perennial remains a mystery to me. I have come to believe that all of this year's plant will disappear over winter. Neither crown nor roots will remain from this parent plant. All that will remain is the rosette of daughter plants. Six new plants will have their roots in a tangled mass with little soil penetration. The mass of thinly planted roots are prone to frost heave and death for the daughter plants. If my theory is correct, intervention will be required to save these new plants.

My first bold act was to cut away all of the current plant. These firm stems were placed at the base of the stone wall out of sight. After the ground has frozen the remains of this year's plant will be used to mulch the cluster of daughter plants. If continuous snow cover looks chancy, snow will be shoveled onto these plants. Early next spring when the ground thaws, these plants will be potted up so that I can move them to the basement if severe freezes threatened. When I transplant these I will look for any remaining sign of the parent plant. Six stems show that I did not divide this plant this year. It was coarsely mulched. Each stem will likely create six new plants. Thirty-six new plants in such a small space looks risky to me.

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