November 25, 2009

Over the river...

My parents never went over the river and through the woods.

I never went over the river and through the woods.

My children didn't, and certainly my grandchildren have not.

Nevertheless, the lyrics of the quintessential elementary school Thanksgiving song plays in our heads, the melody rings true in our minds.

November 20, 2009

More fall chores

Just when I think I’ve seen the last of the days when I want to work in the yard, a day like today comes along and all I can think of is being outside in the fresh air. Although I’ve pretty much put the garden to bed – I can’t lift the dahlias until the first hard frost – a walk around the yard usually finds something that needs to be done.

My Montauk daisy is in the corner flower garden. It didn’t do well this year, probably a victim of the miserable winter. I was busy with my vegetable garden in June, so the plant didn’t get the good pruning it needed in June. As a result, the plant turned leggy; instead of a full show of white flowers this fall, the flowers sprawled all over the garden bed and sidewalk, hardly a sight for sore eyes. So rather than leave it for the Spring I took advantage of today’s beautiful weather and took the time to do a hard pruning. (The green tape you see in the photo is on the dahlia stems)

November 19, 2009

The last light of summer

Walking back from town this afternoon I could no longer delude myself. Winter, and its short, dark and cold days, really is just around the corner. And then a spot of bright pink caught my eye, a last dahlia, highlighted against my dark green hedge.

I love dahlias. Of course, like every flower, they have their pluses and minuses, but for as long as this garden has existed they’ve elicited oohs and ahs from folks who walk by. Even this summer, with its overabundance of rain and lack of warmth, the dahlias were the highlight of the late summer garden.

One of the best aspects of the plant: dahlias continue blooming until the first frost. And so, while the rest of my flower garden is dormant and readied for winter, the dahlias continue to put forth their flowers. And so, one single task remains: lifting and storing the dahlia tubers for the winter.

November 7, 2009

Cool weather, continued

Long before I pick the green tomatoes, I bring in all the houseplants that have spent the summer on my front porch, enjoying the rain and humidity of a Larchmont summer. It’s a several-step process: check for bugs, prune and repot if necessary, and then try to find a place in the house for those that have outgrown their original places.
As sad as the process makes me – after all, it means the days are getting short and cold, and it will be months before I can dig in my garden again – I’m always cheered up by my Christmas cactus plants. Sure enough, a few days after being brought inside, the buds appear. Then, within a week, my house is filled with color.

The “Momma” of them all, at least 20 by now, has been repotted twice and pruned back numerous times—but that has never stopped her from putting forth an incredible show. She’s not my favorite – the apricot and white flowers of other varieties are much more to my taste – but who can resist the sight of this plant?

Some years, when it has stayed warm later in the fall, she holds her blooms for Thanksgiving, so more people can see her. But she’s never made it into December, and a quick check of the web explains why.

These plants need cool temperatures and totally dark nights for a few weeks before they bloom – pretty much the conditions of my front porch before I bring them inside. But once inside, where the heat has already kicked on, they believe it’s time to show their colors.

I’ve had some luck getting second and third blooms during the winter on my smaller plants that that have a Southern exposure. Will keep you posted.

November 6, 2009

Green Tomatoes

With the temperature dipping close to the freezing mark this week, I decided it really was time to finish cleaning up the garden. After all, what chance was there that those tomato plants, practically bare of leaves, were producing the energy needed to turn all those green tomatoes red?

In all my years of growing tomatoes, never before did I have such a large stock of green ones left on the vine. A quick Google search confirmed what I suspected: tomatoes need temperatures far warmer than what was forecast for Larchmont.

In past years I’d had only limited success with my end-of-season tomatoes. And since our house is now on a low-fat/nothing fried diet, the fried green tomatoes we’d enjoyed in previous years were out of the question.

The first day I picked only the healthiest looking tomatoes, ones that had few blemishes and were large enough to probably taste pretty good if they ever turned red. Into a paper bag they went. Sure enough, two days later, half were either already red or well on their way. We ate one that night and it did, indeed, plant a sweet kiss of summer as we ate it.

So I took the plunge and brought the rest of them inside. I discarded those that were simply too small or bruised to be of much help, but the rest, ugly as they are, are now in a paper bag on the counter. I suspect a day devoted to making and freezing tomato sauce is in the not very distant future.