THINGS TO DO:
Plant cool season vegetables and annuals. Last month I wrote about planting the vegetables that like to mature when it is cool from seed. This month you can plant them as transplants. We just received some lettuces, kale, broccoli and cabbage as well as pansies, violas, dianthus and snapdragons. Pansies and violas will flower all winter long and dianthus and snaps are basically perennial. This is our last truck of the season so when they're gone, they're gone!
Plant spring flowering shrubs. This is the time to think about the shrubs and groundcovers you see blooming early in the spring. Forsythia, Lilacs, Creeping Phlox and Wallflower are the most common. Since plants do about 80% of their root growth in late summer, fall and winter it is a good time to get them in the ground. If you plant now you will be rewarded with beautiful early spring flowers.
Store herbs. It is always sad to see your herbs die back in the cold. Now is a good time to preserve some of your favorites for use during the winter. Since leaves are most potent just before plants begin to flower, try to keep the blooms pruned off and harvest them as soon as you see flower buds starting. Cut the stems of herbs you want to keep in the morning before it gets too hot. Discard any damaged or yellowing leaves, rinse under cold water and drain thoroughly. I use my salad spinner for this. Drying is one of the easiest ways to preserve herbs. Tie together the cut ends and hang to dry in a well ventilated place out of direct sunlight. To keep dust from settling on them cover with paper bags or cheesecloth. You can also strip the leaves from the stems and dry them on racks or newspaper. Oven drying or using a dehydrator is quicker but more expensive and makes the herbs lose flavor. For best results dry them very slowly at 110 degrees. After drying remove the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container in a cool dark place or they can be frozen. Soft leaved herbs such as basil, chives, fennel, lovage, mint and tarragon can be blanched and then frozen. Using 1 pint of water for every 2.5 ounces of fresh herbs, place leaves in a wire basket or colander and plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds. Immediately immerse the herbs in ice water for 1 minute. Blot excess moisture and pack them tightly in freezer bags. Squeeze out as much air as possible, seal and freeze. Considering the high price of most herbs in the grocery stores, a little work now can go a long way in winter.
PLANT OF THE MONTH:
Erysimum. Wallflowers are useful evergreen perennials for our climate. Cold hardy to zone 5, critter resistant and low water, we have two varieties in stock now. Most of you are familiar with Erysimum linifolium 'Bowles Mauve'. It forms a large globe 2' by 2' with narrow gray-green leaves and a profusion of iridescent, fragrant mauve flowers all summer. It is at home in a perennial bed mixed with yellows and whites. Remove spent flowers to keep it looking its best. The other Wallflower that we grew this year is Erysimum kotschyanum 'Orange Flame'. It is a groundcover that will reach 8-10" tall and 14" wide. The small leaves are light green and will be covered with fragrant orange flowers in spring. It would do well planted in the front of a bed, along a walkway, on a slope or spilling over the edge of a wall. Both of these Wallflowers attract butterflies and bees.
|'Bowles Mauve' Wallflower|
|'Orange Flame' Wallflower|
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