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Enjoying the bounty of fall

A friend from the Y dropped off a box of iris this week, then a friend from a library book group dropped off two bags of hostas. I didn’t move fast enough to give them strawberry plants or cone flower in return but managed to give each a handful of nasturtium seeds. I’ve been planting tulips and hyacinths, since there is not yet a map of where the daffodils are planted their bulbs are sometimes unearthed. It is clear from the daffodil bulbs that they were resting all summer and are just now putting out new roots, more evidence this is a good time to plant. Some plants have contractile roots that pull the bulb deeper into the soil, sometimes when you are digging them up they seem deeper than you planted.

Meanwhile there are a lot of iris to plant. Iris grow from a thick rhizome with a fan of leaves emerging from the tip and roots growing from the underside. The rhizome does not like to be buried. I loosened the soil where they were to be planted, worked in some compost or potting soil and bone meal, then placed the rhizomes on the surface with the tip pointed in the direction I want the plant to grow. Where possible, the roots were pushed into the soil. “Loosened the soil” means digging up great clumps of the clay, then chopping it up with the shovel, and sorting the clumps into pieces that will crumble and those that will not (suitable for making pots). The heavy clay clumps are used to fill holes in the backyard. The iris are going into two new flower beds outside of the garden so it’s been a lot more work than planting in the compost filled raised beds.

The strawberry bed was moved. Even though strawberries usually stay in the same bed for a couple of years I’ve torn out half the established bed and moved plants to a new area. That leaves half a bed of crowded plants that may still be there next spring. No special treatment is afforded the strawberries, they tough it out over the winter, then bloom and make strawberries next spring.

Gladiolus, according to one reference I checked, are hardy in zones 8-10. We are in zone 6 but glads have always come back without being lifted. This year I was given some new glads and so am lifting the corms, drying them out, then storing for the winter. I will store them the way dahlia tubers are stored, in peat moss, in a paper bag, in a cool area. Next spring the dozens of baby corms that surrounded the main one will go into a nursery bed.

Walking the dogs in the back this week, I found the first puffball. It was peeled, crumbled into butter and olive oil and sauted a minute, then sliced zucchini added and the combination sauted until tender. Yum. Puffballs and morels are the only two safe wild mushrooms I eat. Make sure the inside of the puffball is white, it turns black as the spores mature. My sister used to use the black insides like chalk for drawing on sidewalks and tree trunks. Enjoy the bounty of autumn.

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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