Many of the flowers we plant and treat as annuals in our home landscape are not annuals at all. By definition, an annual is a plant that completes its life cycle, i.e. from seed germination to seed production and death, within one growing season.
So what are these “annuals” that are not truly annuals?
The non-annual annuals I’m referring to are commonly termed “tender perennials.” That is, they are plants native to relatively mild climates and are capable of living for many years. When relocated to a region much colder than their native climate, these plants do not typically survive the winter when left outdoors. Examples of tender perennials include begonias, coleus, geraniums (Pelargonium), impatiens, salvias and summer flowering bulbs, such as cannas and dahlias.
Some of these tender perennials can be saved from year to year — the digging up and indoor storage of canna, dahlia and gladiola bulbs as a case in point. Non-bulb-forming tender perennials planted in flower beds are much more difficult to dig up and bring indoors and rarely survive the move. As such, we just leave them to their fate when frosty temperatures prevail and then start anew the following spring with new seedlings. However, tender perennial “annuals” grown in pots often make a successful transition to indoor living during the winter. Even so, many folks, including the one scribbling out this column, discard the container-grown plants in fall, but I made the exception this year with one of our container-grown plants, osteospermum.
Osteospermum, otherwise known as African daisy, Cape daisy, sunscape daisy and Cape marigold, has long been my favorite annual ... er, tender perennial. As the common names imply, osteospermum is native to South Africa. It first appeared in the commercial market about 35 years ago. Since then, there have been a huge number of hybrid varieties with a wide range of colors. It has become my go-to annual for displaying in containers. The one we grew this year has bloomed so prolifically that I felt it a shame to toss onto the compost at the end of the growing season. So, I brought it indoors several weeks ago, just after a touch of frost, and placed it near a sunny window. Thus far, it continues to bloom and is even producing new flower buds. The only care it’s getting is occasional watering when the potting soil feels dry and deadheading any spent blossoms. It remains to be seen if it will continue in good health and while indoors. It is an experiment well worth the effort.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS IN THE GARDEN
As the outdoor gardening season winds down, there is some unfinished business:
My grandson’s bottle gourds have made it through a couple of touches of frost and remain on the now-dead vines. The gourds have been steadily turning tan in color. Liam, my grandson, will have to wipe down the gourds with a 10-percent bleach solution (1 part household bleach in 9 parts water) to prevent any mold from developing. Once the gourds are completely tan in color, light in weight, and hollow -– as indicated by the rattle of seeds within the gourds -– he will have an ample supply to use as bottles or as birdhouses.
The peanuts my daughter, Jennifer, harvested a month ago have been drying in small crates ready for roasting. Jennifer will spread the unshelled nuts on a baking sheet and then roast them in the oven at 300 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, leeks, late onions and celery remain in the garden and will continue to be harvested as needed or before hard freezes below 28 degrees F are imminent.
Garlic is yet to be planted. I’ll wait until just after Halloween to plant as soil and air temperatures will have cooled a little more. Also, I’ll need all my garlic bulbs to ward off any vampires, which may appear on Halloween eve. To prepare for planting, I created narrow raised beds. This will ensure good drainage, a critical factor in successful growth or garlic. In the meantime, the garlic bulbs should be kept intact until ready to plant. Then the individual cloves are separated with only the largest cloves being planted. The larger the cloves, the larger the resulting bulbs will be next summer. To plant, the cloves are inserted into the soil to a depth of 2 to 4 inches and spaced 4 to 6 inches apart in rows 12 or more inches apart. After planting, I cover the rows with several inches of straw. The straw will keep the cloves from being heaved out of the soil during freeze and thaw events through winter.
Speaking of straw, I like to get in a supply to use not only to mulch newly planted garlic, but also the leeks and carrots, which I’ll continue to harvest well into winter. Remaining straw bales will be covered with a tarp through winter and be available for use the next growing season. As Pete Martin of Pittsfield recently informed me, he had disease-free tomato plants this year, which he attributes to the straw mulch he applied around the plants. The mulch prevents the splashing of certain soil-borne diseases, e.g. early blight, onto the plants. Good advice, Pete.
On those notes, the Garden Journal will be put away for this year. I wish all to remain safe and healthy.