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The unpredictable plants

Wonderful news about Janet Delturco. She had been diagnosed with kidney failure and was undergoing dialysis, but one of her kidneys has recovered and she’s fine. I saw her outside the library and she looked great. It’s nice to be able to share good news.

Several people have commented to me about how unpredictable plants are, that’s for sure. Even though we know they will grow best if they have the optimal light, soil, temperature, and nutrients, our personal experience is amazement when they grow spectacularly, and disappointment when they mope along or die. Even though we think we have provided just what they like. An example is perennials that differ from year to year although the soil, light and nutrients haven’t changed. This seems to be a good year for the vine called virgin’s bower which is a species of native clematis. The vines are in full flower and will be just as pretty as they mature. There is a great example on Clinton Avenue just past the junction of Ohio Avenue and Hunter. Roses seem to be doing well and the rose-of-sharon / hibiscus are lovely.

Harvest season is going on and besides the obvious tomatoes, squash, corn, carrots, beets, cucumbers etc. think about cutting herbs for drying. Both the sage and thyme bloomed a while ago and I cut off the flowers and now have nice leafy stems to cut. Sage gets dried hanging upside down in a ventilated area. Thyme leaves are tiny on short stems so I cut handfuls and dry them flat on newspaper then store. To use, I strip some leaves off a stem, pick leaves that have come off and are in the bottom of the bag, or use whole stems with leaves. Lemon verbena and rosemary both have fairly woody stems so leaves are striped from stems and put in a dehydrator for a few hours to dry. Parsley will grow through the winter so it’s just left in the garden. Dill heads are collected in a paper bag for use in recipes and for planting next year.

The 12 pears that the deer missed were small but were sliced and put in the dehydrator for later snacks. The dehydrator removes water from the fruit and so concentrates the sweetness. I leave on some skin for increased fiber content. Apples will also go into the dehydrator, but later when the varieties I like become available. My apples, also small this year, will be salvaged for applesauce.

October will be a busy month with planting bulbs, transplanting perennials, getting compost for the garden and pre-frost jobs so now I’m doing lower priority jobs like putting hoses away, cleaning bird feeders, using the water in the rain barrels (which need to be empty before frost), and weeding of course. Many of my houseplants are tropicals so the last warm days of September will be all they get before they go inside for the winter. Since they have been outside all summer they need to be inspected for fungal and insect pests and treated accordingly.

Alas, ants usually have made a home in a few of the pots and must be encouraged to leave. Each plant must be checked, cleaned up, and put in the best place for it in the sunroom. It all takes time so I’d better get going. Enjoy the season.

Susan Carty is a local gardener and a professor emerita of biology at Heidelberg University.

Contact her via:newsroom@advertiser-tribune.com

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