Carla Albright

Carla Albright

I must admit that the growing season of 2019 wasn’t a good one for me keeping up my gardening journal. Don’t get me wrong. It was a great growing season for the plants, just not for me doing my journaling. No excuses, no particular reasons. I just didn’t get around to it.

But late September and early October are the perfect times to get into the garden and make some notes about the successes and failures for the year. Better yet, it is a good time to think seriously about what will need to change in the spring and summer of 2020.

For example, I know I have a couple of huge sword ferns that keep encroaching on the surrounding plants. They have been left to do their thing for about 30 years, and this year they got out of hand. I wound up cutting back fronds in July and again in late August, but the darn thing keeps putting out new fiddleheads. So, first on my list for late winter or early spring will be to get down and dirty and dig them out, roots and all. It won’t be an easy task as the root balls will be deep and entrenched. But with a little help from my friends, I am sure we can manage. I will cut the fronds back as far as I can into the clump, then take a sharpened spade and make deep cuts all the way around the plant. Using a pry bar, I will get underneath the roots and lift. And lift, and lift, until I can break them free from the ground.

Once they are free, I can drag the plants and dump them on the brush pile. These are so large and old that I don’t want to try to relocate them. They will just take over another area. The nice thing about sword ferns is there are so many of them and they grow so well in Tillamook County that I don’t mind relegating one or two to the dump pile.

Some of my Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa) did better than others. Luckily, I left one in a pot and was able to move it until I found a spot it seemed to really like.  I will winter it over still in the pot, but I need to note in my journal where to plant it next spring. I guess it’s one benefit of procrastinating when I didn’t get it planted when I bought it.

Also on my list for next year will be a detailed account of the dahlias I planted this year and how they did. Husband Gary had made me a long, raised box to put the tubers in and they seemed to do very well this year. I needed to put slug bait out in the spring and I was worried about the dogs eating the bait and getting sick from it. So we wrapped the box in small wire mesh and stapled it to the wood. Kept the dogs out and – something I didn’t think would ever happen – it seemed to discourage the slugs from trying to get in. I will need to record that so I do the same thing next year.

Next year will require some very heavy pruning on the bay laurels that have – along with the sword ferns – gotten out of hand this year. Again, I will get some help to do that as they have grown quite tall and wide. By pruning them severely in February, I will stunt some of that giant growth and give myself more sun in the garden at the same time. Win-win.

Something I don’t have to wait until spring to do involves my younger rhododendron. Some of them are looking a little stressed and didn’t do well this year, so I want to help them out a little now. Usually, I fertilize my rhodies and azaleas in the spring after they have bloomed. But this time of year is a good time to do a top-dressing of compost around the bases. And the ones that didn’t do well at all this past spring can get a light sprinkling of a 5-10-10 granular fertilizer that is made for acid-loving plants. Use just a light dusting and be sure to water it in.

Maybe I didn’t do a great job of journaling this year, but I can tell you I spent a lot more time just sitting, reading and reflecting in the garden. The patio was a welcome respite and I spent many hours out there this summer just relaxing. Warm sunny days with little wind are at a premium and should be enjoyed when they come. I can always catch up on the journal later.

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