Lawncare, bulb planting

October Gardening

By —— Bio and Archives--October 1, 2007

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Prepare for a stormy fall across Eastern Canada, advises the Canadian Hurricane Centre. Environment Canada in its usual confident way predicts a lack of rain for Ontario all this month and on through to the end of November. Ah well, as Ogden Nash in his glorious rhymes once opined:

The prophets chant and the prophets chatter,
But somehow it never seems to matter,
For the world hangs on to its ancient sanity
And orders another round of vanity.

Nevertheless, being gardeners and so prepared to accept anything and everything, continuing to water if and when necessary into early December.

A half-century ago, advice to expect the first fall frost in the third week of September had already become badly outdated. Climatic Normals, Volume VI, published by what was then the Meteorological Branch of Transport Canada, showed that date for Toronto as likely to be 27 October.

So sit back, take it easy, enjoy the autumn garden and don’t start tearing it apart just yet. True, a few chores await those awash with Thanksgiving provender. Strangely, this is followed a few days later the Ontario Provincial Election, a time one would have thought few turkeys were still to be found.

Can’t be bothered to rake up fallen maple leaves? Then don’t complain about the black spots on the leaves next season. The spores of the fungus Rhytisma acerinum overwinter in such leaf litter. Commonly called tar spot disease, it is often seen on sugar, red and sycamore maples but is most prevalent on silver and the ubiquitous alien Norway Acer species. Although infected foliage may drop earlier than normal the disease, although unsightly, rarely kills infected trees.

Having raked away any such leaves for composting, fertilize the lawn with a nutrient blend of your choice, chemical or natural. Included in the latter is corn gluten that, if the lawn is as weedy as so many are after a dry summer, is gaining an excellent reputation in some circles as a natural selective herbicide.

Other than this, regular mowing to reduce grass blade length to two inches (5 cm) high and twice-weekly watering if there is no prolonged rain should be all that is needed to maintain great a lawn. Expert Pam Charbonneau recently reported that research at the Guelph Turfgrass Institute showed that regular fertilization and high mowing cab reduce broadleaf weed invasion to less than 10 per cent.

Where the lawn edges onto beds, walkways or drives may not normally receive attention. If a patio party or similar event is planned, here is a neat tip: the previous day, trim the edges with a turf edger. This is the long-handled implement with the crescent-shaped blade at the business end. Mow the lawn but leave cleaning up the flowerbeds. If some horticultural hobbyist identifies weeds, reply to the effect that they were so pretty you’ve left them alone.

Scilla is derived from the Greek name for the sea squill, Urginea maritima, which in fact is no Scilla at all. To paraphrase Cole Porter, botanists are a boring lot and only give you trouble . . . So who was the Scylla that Odysseus encountered? In Greek mythology, a sea nymph that Circe turned into a monster when, as girls are wont to do, they quarreled over the love of Glaucus. Scylla was forced thereafter lived on a rock on the Italian side of the Strait of Messina, snatching from passing ships men for meals. Scilla similarly might cause the demise of any squirrel or other nauseous nibbler.

According to the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center in Danby, Vermont ( HYPERLINK “http://www.bulb.com/” http://www.bulb.com), the list of squirrel, rabbit, deer and other pest-resistant bulbs include:

Allium, ornamental onion, bloom late spring to early summer
Camassia, bloom late spring
Chionodoxa, glory of the snow, bloom late winter, early spring
Colchicum, bloom late summer and fall
Crocus tommasiniandis, bloom late winter, early spring
Eranthis, winter aconite, bloom late winter, early spring
Fritillaria, bloom mid- to late spring, depending on variety
Galanthus nivalis, snowdrop, bloom late winter, early spring
Hyacinthoides hispanica, Spanish bluebell, bloom late spring
Hyacinthus, hyacinth, bloom mid-spring
Ipheion, bloom early to mid-spring, depending on variety
Leucojum, snowflake, bloom mid- to late spring
Muscari, grape hyacinth, bloom mid- to late spring, depending on variety
Narcissus, daffodil, bloom early- to late spring, depending on variety
Ornithogalum, bloom early to mid-spring
Oxalis, bloom mid-spring to fall, depending on variety
Scilla, bloom early spring to early summer, depending on variety

What time should you plant bulbs? The Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center advises “once night-time temperatures in your area drop into the 4º-10ºC for two weeks. Bulbs root best in the period of six weeks or more prior to the ground freezing, the centre explains.

What about all the perennials that may impede access? Ah well, there’s a slight problem here. Experts such The Epic Gardener advise against cutting too early. Over much of southern Ontario that means before hard frosts have reduced softer foliage to pulp. Ornamental grasses are left until spring, as are tall sedums and Miscanthus until spring, as are semi-evergreens such as euphorbia, heuchera, perennial alyssum and snow-in-summer. In truth, their foliage may be grey, silver, copper or any colour except green but too aficionados, they are “evergreen.”

So relax, sit back and examine the goodies the wee ones returned with from The Witching Hour. Ostensibly, this is to check for any unpleasantness. In truth it is to scarf anything edible that appeals to the devoted parent. Burp. Pardon.

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Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

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