October Garden Ramble - 27 East

Residence

Residence / 2208419

October Garden Ramble

Number of images 4 Photos
Japanese beetles usually feed on roses (here) and hibiscus plants for about five weeks beginning around July Fourth.  This feeding and damage was taking place on October 8.  Climate change?
ANDREW MESSINGER

Japanese beetles usually feed on roses (here) and hibiscus plants for about five weeks beginning around July Fourth. This feeding and damage was taking place on October 8. Climate change? ANDREW MESSINGER

Impatiens omeiana in bloom after two years of waiting. Note the pink-lined mid-rib on the 6-inch leaves. The inch-and-a-half-long flowers are cream white and yellow with red speckling in the throat. The curl at the back end of the flower is the nectary, where pollinators go for feeding and spreading the pollen from the front of the plant as they enter and exit. ANDREW MESSINGER

Impatiens omeiana in bloom after two years of waiting. Note the pink-lined mid-rib on the 6-inch leaves. The inch-and-a-half-long flowers are cream white and yellow with red speckling in the throat. The curl at the back end of the flower is the nectary, where pollinators go for feeding and spreading the pollen from the front of the plant as they enter and exit. ANDREW MESSINGER

When mowing to cut grass and mulch leaves at the same time, start in the center and let the mower move the mulched material to the sides.  But a small miscalculation or bad planning can result in this problem. A quick once over with the mower will make this mistake disappear in seconds though. ANDREW MESSINGER

When mowing to cut grass and mulch leaves at the same time, start in the center and let the mower move the mulched material to the sides. But a small miscalculation or bad planning can result in this problem. A quick once over with the mower will make this mistake disappear in seconds though. ANDREW MESSINGER

This rain chain works well in a light rain. However, as you can see, in a moderate to heavy rain the water overshoots the chain, making the device pointless. SHELLEY SMITH

This rain chain works well in a light rain. However, as you can see, in a moderate to heavy rain the water overshoots the chain, making the device pointless. SHELLEY SMITH

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Hampton Gardener®

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: Oct 12, 2023
  • Columnist: Andrew Messinger

It’s just after 11 in the morning on a Saturday in October. It’s been raining all morning and already nearly two inches of rain has fallen. The rain was expected, and two days ago I began to feel like a frantic squirrel scurrying around the property trying to get things done before the rain and the pending cold front and wind.

One decision I had to make was whether I was going to fertilize the lawn. It’s been my routine to add a last dose of fertilizer in October as that tends to give the turf the umph to make it through the winter. But the grass grew so fast during the entire summer that to fertilize or not became a great dilemma. I did. As the air and soil cools, the blades will hopefully green up but not grow the quarter to half inch a day I had to deal with from June through most of September.

The rain also has given me a chance to watch and consider the rain chain my wife decided to install off our second-story roof. Rain chains have been around for decades, and two years ago a vendor — I believe Monarch is the brand — sent me a sample to install at our upstate house. It was explained to me that this chain was intended to break the velocity of the water that would come down a downspout and wash out the landscape surrounding the outfall. Our downstate condo board would have sent me to jail if I’d installed it there. The device arrived more than two years ago, and to put it politely, the vendor was not happy that I hadn’t reviewed it in 2022. I reminded the vendor that during that summer it simply hadn’t rained. Well, in 2023, it has rained.

This rain chain is about 8.5 feet long and made out of copper. It has a very nice architectural appeal and patina. My wife, an architect, couldn’t resist installing it. I was just an observer and critic. I’d seen some industrial applications of rain chains on warehouses but had never seen one used on a residence. The purpose is to capture the rain that would otherwise go down a gutter downspout and reduce the velocity of the water as it drains downward.

My research revealed that these devices are of dubious use and highly recommended by the companies that sell them, but by few others. I watched the chain during gentle rains, and yes, it did look interesting, and it did seem to break the force of the water falling from the third-floor roof down the roof below. But gentle rains were not on the menu for most of last summer, and for more than a gentle rain of just tenths of an inch an hour the chain seemed to be useless. The water overshot it, hitting the roof below a foot or more off target. I was disappointed, though not surprised.

I also realized that as it gets colder, with snow melting on the roof then refreezing at night, the rain chain would become quite dangerous as ice builds up on it inch by inch by inch. This would add weight that would pull on the point of attachment atop the chain. Then again, more than a few downspouts and gutters are ripped off of homes with ice build ups. That’s why we eliminated all but one of our gutters and downspouts years ago and that’s a good reason why this rain chain won’t be a permanent “architectural” addition to our house.

Rain chains can be nice ornaments for a garden shed or garage that’s only one story tall, but while they are nice looking with architectural appeal, I’m not so certain they are problem solvers.

I’m always on the lookout for new plants, mostly perennials, for my gardens. Several years ago I found Impatiens omeiana “Silver Pinkster” in the Plant Delights catalog. This is a hardy, herbaceous impatiens unlike our annual natives and the ornamentals we buy at garden centers. Discovered in the higher elevations of the Sichuan province in China in the 1980s where it is now endangered, it’s available from several U.S. sources.

Planted in the spring of 2021 it made it through two winters, and with its rhizome-like roots my one plant soon expanded to four, covering a 2-square-foot area. But not flowers. I watched, I waited and began to think the location was not right and that needed to be addressed. That changed in September.

The plants are in a shady side garden that stays moist and cool. Late one afternoon the dog and I passed the plants and sure enough there were dozens of bud clusters. They developed very quickly and within a week each cluster was sporting inch-and-a-half horn of plenty-like flowers with interiors speckled with amazing tiny red spots.

Yes, you may have to get on your hands and knees to fully appreciate this plant, but what a find. It’s a great woodland shade plant that has foliage as well as flower appeal at the end of the summer. Not sure if it will set seed here because the flowers appear so late but I have seen some smaller insects going in and out of the flowers, which have very appealing nectaries. The plant is available from Plants Delights and other online nurseries.

It’s time to deal with the leaves that are beginning to fall. On my tractor and smaller mower I use mulching blades, but between the leaves and grass clippings it can be a bit much. Some mowers allow you to open a side shoot that allows the mulched material to shoot out the right side of the deck. If this is an option, you can start mowing in the center of an area and make your mowing passes in a manner that continues to move the mulched material to the right and left. Done in the right pattern the mulched material is moved toward your beds and borders where it simply becomes a perfect mulch.

You can also use this method to mulch and “corral” mulched leaves, which can then be moved into a pile and off to the compost or added to the veggie garden as an instant mulch.

And speaking of the vegetable garden, do you use cover crops? Even the smallest gardens will benefit from them. They’re sometimes called green manures and function to build your soil with organic matter while at the same time keeping the soil stable and in place during the winter. There’s no garden that’s too small for cover crops, and you can find much more information here: t.ly/nD0vm.

The summer weather (and climate change) seem to have affected some insects and plants. Crane flies, which look like very large menacing mosquitoes, emerged very late this year on the lawn. No, they don’t bite and no they are not a big issue though they are just another two species of invasive insects. In September I noticed that the foliage on two of my perennial hibiscus was being eaten, then I found a few Japanese beetles doing the feeding — about eight weeks later than usual. This after only a minor number of these beetles in July.

Yes, the Asian lady beetles are swarming and trying to get inside your house for the winter. Usually found on sun-drenched exterior walls on warm fall days, they are a nuisance and difficult to avoid. Crushing them results in a foul smell, especially indoors, but you may find that a light application of the repellent permethrin on the window exterior trim will keep them away.

In the garden I had a variety of Trollius blooming in September. This plant usually blooms in late spring but it did have several flowers that set seed so now I get to see if Mother Nature has developed a late-summer-blooming Trollius. It’ll take a few years to figure this out.

I’m seeing people get firewood delivered for their fireplaces as it cools down outside. Where they stack the wood gives me reason for concern. Firewood should be kept away from buildings and not staked under porches or on them or against the house. It’s a perfect wintering spot for a number of rodents that you don’t want looking for ways to get indoors. Stack the wood at least 10 feet from any building. I know, it’s a schlep, but better to schlep than be chasing mice and rats around the living room.

And if you do have and use a fireplace or wood stove please have your chimney inspected. Birds get stuck in them during the summer and squirrels will nest in them. The fires and smoke that can result can do a great deal of damage. Best to have a chimney sweep do an annual inspection or at the very least if you can look up the chimney make sure there are no obstructions.

Only five or six weeks left to really get those spring-flowering bulbs planted, and if you want to force Amaryllis into flower for the holidays (it can take 10-12 weeks) get your bulbs ordered and keep them cool (not cold) and dry until you pot them.

Perfect time to do spot weeding instead of treating an entire lawn. Look for dandelion and plantain foliage and give a shot of a ready-to-use (RTU) herbicide or use a manual weed extractor. Keep growing.

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