Good morning! Well, there is no way around it. All the color has moved to the trees and out of our gardens. Another gardening season is over, but there are still some fun activities to do outdoors on these crisp fall days with blue skies. And, if you have the energy, some chores as well.

Let’s do fun things first.

I think pumpkins have gotten a lot more fun with hybridizers making some amazing changes. White pumpkins are beautiful next to pinkish Cinderella pumpkins or purple kale. If you’ve grown tired of plain orange pumpkins, your choices are expanding. You just have to be willing to work to find them. I have discovered that small farms and farm stands and some of those out-of-the-way places are growing really interesting things.

There are great gourds this year with amazing color patterns and combinations — and they just pop up at the same farm stand where you got corn this summer. They look great as part of your harvest display. Corn stalks tied around the front light pole look nice with a few pumpkins and gourds in front.

And don’t forget the plants that are available as well. Millet in bushel baskets can bring height to your display; and, of course, mums and asters are pretty. It is fun to take a few big pumpkins, whether orange or white, and make a Halloween statement. Cut off the pumpkin top and clean out the insides just as you would to make a jack-o’-lantern but also make a fairly large opening in the bottom. Put in some rocks for drainage and a few inches of soil in the bottom and add a kale, aster or mum. Fill in with soil around the plant and, voila, you have a really neat display item.

And don’t overlook those wire hanging baskets that are drooping or have gotten hit by frost. They can make a perfect display with just a little effort. Take out the plants and the plant liner and find a bunch of fallen leaves. Line the basket with overlapping layers of those leaves and you have a very colorful basket. You can place a small potted mum or aster into the basket or fill the bottom with more leaves and put gourds on top.

Our first frost up here on the hill doesn’t usually come until almost Halloween so I face the same dilemma every year. I still have tall snapdragons blooming by my front light pole and beautiful begonias blooming on my porch. But live and learn (although it does take a while for me these days). This spring when I planted those begonias for the front porch, I chose various shades of orange and yellow instead of my usual pinks. So now the pumpkins look great next to them and I don’t have to throw them out until I am ready. Planning does sometimes work out.

While you are outdoors, you might want to deadhead some of those long-gone flowers. If you planted perennials in with annuals in baskets such as beacon silver or little coral bells, it is time for them to go in the ground. They will be fine with faithful watering between now and when the ground freezes. And for this year only since they are new, throw three or four inches of mulch around their bases once the ground freezes.

This is also the time of year for bulbs in and bulbs out. That is pretty much how I remember anyway. If you have spring blooming bulbs like daffodils or crocus, it’s time to put them in. You do not have to wait until long johns and winter mittens are required to survive the task. This is also the best time to dig up over-crowded daffodil or hyacinth bulbs and replant them. When you do this, work the soil really well , take some out and add some compost into what is left before replanting.

Don’t forget the other bulbs out — like dahlias, calla lilies and cannas. If you had cannas in pots, they can stay there for the winter in a cool, dark, dry place. Just let the foliage dry naturally or cut it off if it has been hit by frost. Dahlias and callas need to be dug, cleaned and stored away. They can be stored in pots if they grew there like the cannas but wait until frost has blackened their foliage. You need to let the foliage on dahlias and callas in the ground blacken from frost before digging them up as well.

If you planted new trees or shrubs this season, give them three or four inches of mulch after the ground freezes in case we have horrible cold with no snow this winter. The mulch will help protect them if we have a lot of deep cold and/or ice and no snow blanket.

This is also a perfect time to clean your bird feeders. A little soaking in bleach water and a bit of scrubbing will make the birds much healthier this winter. And don’t forget to take in the hummingbird feeders.They have left us and headed South for another year.

Also, give your rhododendrons several good and deep waterings before the ground freezes since we have had so little rain all season. It could mean the difference between them living or dying next spring.

Until next time, enjoy the amazing show that Mother Nature gives us each year, enjoy some apple crisp out of the oven and, for goodness sake, find those flannel sheets. You are going to need them very, very soon.

Happy gardening.

Jody Goodwin has been gardening for more than 25 years. She lives in Turner with her husband, Ike, and two cats. She may be reached by writing to her in care of the Sun Journal, 104 Park St., Lewiston, Maine, 04243-4400 or by e-mail at [email protected]


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