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Charlie’s Mid September Newsletter
Reliable Chrysanthemums, Fall Arugula, Deer Proof Bulbs, and Video of All Things Gardening Live Event
I just did my first All Things Gardening live stream video event this week. What a blast! All Things Gardening is my Vermont Public radio show that airs weekly. We’ve been scheming how to bring the show to more people live on video. So we decided to try a YouTube live stream. We visited a local, Vermont home gardener, did a tour of her gardens and answered gardening questions from viewers as we went. It’s hopefully the first of many such events. There’s a link to the recording of the event on YouTube in this newsletter.
One of the quintessential flowers of fall is the chrysanthemum. It’s a much maligned flower because it’s so popular, widely used and overly hybridized. But it does fill a void for fall color with the wide range of flower shapes and types and bloom colors. It adds pop to a container or garden. So, let’s celebrate chrysanthemums and I do so in this newsletter.
Many vegetables are slowing down production in our zone 5 garden with the shorter days and cooler weather. But this is exactly the type of weather arugula likes. It thrives in cool weather with some moisture. In warm areas you can start planting seed now for a winter crop. In colder areas, consider trying to plant as well, just realize the growth will be slow and the size of the plant smaller. But if you like growing and eating baby arugula, read more here.
September isn’t quite spring flowering bulb planting time, but we’re getting close. One thing I just did was order my spring flowering bulbs so they will be on-hand in October when I plant. If you have deer issues in spring, where they munch on your precious tulips, crocus and other bulbs, read about some deer proof bulbs you can plant now for a better, spring flower show.
Finally, we did it! Our first, live streamed All Things Gardening Show on Vermont Public. Mary Engisch and I hosted a garden tour at a local home garden in Vermont. We chatted with the homeowner, learned about fall veggies and fall flower care, sheet mulching and hugelkultur and best of all, answered viewers questions as we toured. It was a fun event and went longer than we expected with so many questions. You can watch it here, in its entirety or skip to sections of it on YouTube. Enjoy!
Until next time, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.
Where to Find Charlie:(podcasts, TV and in-person)
In the Garden (WCAX-TV CBS) – This week: Late Summer Vines
A Chinese proverb says, “If you want to be happy for a lifetime, grow chrysanthemums.” I’m not sure chrysanthemums guarantee a lifetime of happiness, but they sure make a difference in a fall garden or container. Chrysanthemums often are poo-pooed as being too hybridized and conventional. They are everywhere in fall, but for good reason. Breeders have created mums with a variety of shaped flowers such as cushion, spider, pom pom and spoon. And the range of colors is crazy, from the purist white mum to the deepest burgundy colored one. The plants are bred to bloom their heads off right until frost.
Chrysanthemums are originally from Japan and China where they are revered for their beauty and medicinal qualities. They have been so hybridized that they look different from the original species. The modern chrysanthemum has not only been bred to bloom, but also the branch tips are pinched multiple times during its growth cycle to get all those flowers in a tight, dense bunch.
You can purchase a more relaxed, species type of chrysanthemum, too. While the modern mum is hardy to zone 5, but finicky about returning each year, the species or old fashioned varieties are more hardy and reliable. ‘Hillside Sheffield Pink’ is a 2- to 3-foot tall, more open flowering perennial that’s hardy to zone 4. It has single, pink blooms. You can still pinch this mum weekly from Memorial Day to the 4th of July to get a denser plant with more blooms, but you also don’t have to do that. It’s a beautiful fall perennial all by itself. There are also chrysanthemum introductions from Canada and Minnesota that feature hardier plants. The ‘My Favorites Series’ from Minnesota features plants that grow 4 feet tall with coral, pink or yellow flowers. The ‘Morden Series’ from Canada has a number of selections such as Morden Delight’, ‘Morden Fiesta’, and ‘Morden Garnet’. Look for these if you want your mums to be more of a perennial in your garden.
Plant chrysanthemums in containers with other fall annuals such as ornamental cabbage and pansies or in the garden with sedums, rudbeckia and asters. Mums don’t require lots of care other than watering. They grow best in well-drained, moist soils and in full sun. However, since they’re ready to pop when you buy mums from a garden center, they would be fine for a dash of fall color in a part shade location and in less than ideal soils.
Come fall, simply cut back and compost the plants. If you want to try to induce them to survive your winters, plant near a building that’s protected from wind and cold on loose, sandy soil. Mulch with wood chips in November and hopefully it will return in spring.
How to Grow: Arugula
Arugula is a wild green that often is associated with Italy and spring salads. It is one of the first greens to grow in spring because of its tolerance to cool soils and air temperatures. It’s best eaten when young before the spicy, peppery, flavor develops. Sow seeds in well-drained soils and keep sowing weekly in spring for a continuous harvest.
But wait, it’s not spring! Yes, arugula can also be sown as a fall green. In warmer climates sow now, or in October once the soil has cooled, for a winter crop.
But even if you live in a colder climate, you might try to sow some arugula seeds now. There are a few things to remember. Stick with the wild forms of rocket or arugula, such as ‘Surrey’, to get a faster harvest on tougher plants. The days are shorter so the plants will grow slower than in spring. The cool soils and air temperatures works to your advantage, because the seeds should germinate quickly.
If you garden soils aren’t in good shape for sowing, try planting arugula in a container. Container soils are light weight and seeds germinate fast in them. Plus, you can move containers around, following the sun in fall to get the most light and warmth for your plants to grow. And you can even bring containers indoors during cold nights to protect the plants.
The beauty of arugula is you can eat the greens almost at any stage. Even if you can only grow a baby arugula plant this fall, it’s still edible. In fact, it will have little of the spiciness and a nice, soft texture and mild flavor. Harvest as you need it. Bring the plants indoors once the temperatures get around freezing and continue growing the plants in a sunny window. You may be able to tease out another harvest before the plants are done for the season.
One last thing. If you have arugula already in your garden that has gone to flower and seed, consider sampling those plants, too. The leaves and flowers will be spicy, but they add a little zip to salads and soups. And let some drop seed in the garden. Chances are it will overwinter and germinate in early spring as your first crop of the season.
Deer Proof Bulbs
Fall is spring flowering bulb planting time. It’s a time when hope springs eternal as we plant tulips, daffodils, crocus and many other bulbs for a spring flower show. But, many gardeners know that bulb growing can be a chore. Rodents eat bulbs in fall and bunnies and deer can decimate a spring bulb crop just as they’re ready to flower.
For deer and bunnies, one thing gardeners can do is to plant wisely. Deer and rabbits love tulips and crocus, but avoid other bulbs. We all know daffodils are pretty deer proof, but what other spring flowering bulbs can you plant to survive a deer onslaught? Let me suggest some other bulbs you might purchase now to plant in October and not have to worry about 4 legged creatures eating them.
Dwarf iris and Dutch iris are two forms of low growing, spring to early summer blooming irises that deer don’t seem to like. These either hug the ground less than 1 foot tall or grow a few feet tall. Both bloom early and are delightful in the flower garden. They are hardy to zone 5.
Camassia is a beautiful, late spring flower with white blooms or purple blooms, depending on the variety, on a clumping plant. They can grow 3- to 4-feet tall and reliably come back each year in our garden.
Alliums, of course, are in the onion family so not favorites of rodents, rabbits or deer. The variety of the different allium types is large from small, drumstick alliums all the way to the large Globemaster monsters. Select ones based on where they will grow in your garden so they stand out, but don’t overwhelm other plants. They come in colors including white, pink, yellow, red, blue and purple.
Scilla is a small flowered bulb that grows and spreads quickly in a garden or lawn. I’ve yet to see deer nibble on our scilla and we have it in abundance in our yard. While purple is the usual color of scilla, there are white versions as well.
Finally, Spanish bluebells are a regular bulb in our spring collection that spreads and blooms consistently each year. We grow it under shrubs and among other perennials for its 2 foot tall plants with beautiful bluebell flowers. It dies back after flowering so it’s good to mix in with other summer flowers to hide the dying foliage.
If you want to grow tulips and crocus without deer damage consider fencing the area, planting in containers and protecting them near the house and using repellent sprays. Otherwise, try some of these other bulbs that are more deer proof.
In Our Garden: Video of my All Things Gardening Live Event
Many in Vermont and New England know of my All Things Gardening Radio Show on Vermont Public. Mary Engisch and I host the show on Sunday mornings where I talk about relevant gardening topics and answer listeners gardening questions. The show is broadcast in Vermont and reaches other states and can be found as a podcast on the All Things Gardening web page.
I also love doing live television and video so we started talking a few months ago about a live stream video of the show. We decided that visiting a home gardener and chatting with them while touring their garden would be a great way to get people to tune in and ask gardening questions.
So, the All Things Gardening Live stream event was hatched and it premiered on September 12th in Gretchen’s garden in Huntington, Vermont. It was a blast. (A photo of Gretchen, Mary, myself Meg and the video crew is above). I hope some of you had a chance to watch it live on YouTube. You can also watch the recording on YouTube (link below), but, of course, you won’t be able to ask questions.
We talked about fall vegetable garden care, sheet mulching, hugelkultur and taking care of some fall perennial flowers. Gretchen and Meg demonstrated how to sheet mulch and talked about the unusually shaped hugel mound they created last summer. I highlight some unusual plants in Gretchen’s garden such as the Heptacodium or seven sons tree. The show lasted an hour, but you can watch any portion of it by following the link below.
Hopefully, we’ll have more live streaming gardening events in the future.