by Charlene Burgi
It is difficult to believe we are in the middle of October and enjoying such marvelous weather. Low evening temperatures are the only indication that this is autumn. In the back of my mind, the time for outdoor gardening is winding down, and many of us will soon be restricted to a greenhouse or indoor houseplants while others will hang up their gardening gloves until spring.
With that thought, my mind focused on what needs to be accomplished during this borrowed time and what deadlines I am up against. I thought about getting the garlic and daffodils planted into the ground today. And while rummaging around in the potting shed looking for the long trowel, I unearthed some old lettuce and scallion seed packets. I was curious about their viability and planted them in the greenhouse to see how they would perform.
While planting the veggie seeds, I was struck with a bright idea for unique gifts. The holidays will be here before we know it, so it’s not too early to consider what gifts we need to purchase or make. In the plant-giving world, paperwhite narcissus or amaryllis in pretty containers are popular choices for holiday giving. What about expanding on that idea and offering veggie medleys in clay pots? Scallions, lettuce and radishes planted together in a container could be an instant salad-to-grow, but may require some winter protection. For variety you could use colorful rainbow Swiss chard, garlic and spinach. These winter crops can withstand harsh weather conditions and not demand as much of your time. Or put an assortment of herbs together for the gourmet cook. The possibilities are endless!
Again, my mind drifted to timelines. We are five weeks away from Thanksgiving and two months away from December. The time to implement these ideas is right now so you won’t be offering a beautiful container of soil with a promise of something good to come in the future. (Don’t laugh, it happened to me!) If you are a flower person, the narcissus and amaryllis require immediate planting for December blooms. The veggies from seed should be started soon for signs of growth so the receiver will know what they are to harvest in the future. Keep in mind that garlic is a bulb and will need to be planted about 3-4 inches below the soil surface. One clove will make a bulb, so don’t skimp on the size of the container. And remember some herbs such as basil are annuals and will not germinate or grow in the winter.
Thinking of timelines also reminded me that it is time for you to think of entering your garden into the Marin-Friendly Garden Tour this coming spring. Timing your bulb planting now will ensure an amazing show for this event. Look for bare areas to create a native garden. Bare root fruit trees, perennial vegetables and berries will be available with the onset of winter—ideal for adding an edible garden. Think of where water pooled or erosion occurred last winter and consider installing bioswales or functional dry creek beds with the intent of redirecting the water to other parts of the garden. Bay-Friendly gardens sport many of these features plus more. Let your imagination go wild. I just did that this morning …