Timely Tips: October 15 – 31
MAKE A RHUBARB PIE – There are enough pumpkin pies out there right now, and there’s plenty of rhubarb out there still taking up real estate. With the recent cooler weather, it’s continuing to flourish and looks amazing. Traditionally, rhubarb is a spring crop, and you stop harvesting after 4th of July. This is because if you harvest too heavily, it stresses the reserves the plant is building up, and you get less to harvest next year. But I’m looking at these plants, and I’m looking at the weather forecast, and it’s all going to be dead in a few weeks anyway…so why not make pie?!! Fall harvest is a little different from spring. I use a knife or pruners instead of just breaking off the stems; the roots seem a little more sensitive now, and they don’t have a summer to recover. On the other hand, if you accidentally yank up the whole plant, prune off all the substantial stems, and replant the crown in a different place in the garden to start a new patch. Mulch well, but don’t cover the crown. Compost the leaves and any of the pencil-thin stems or stems that are either woody or seem to have no substance. Use only solid, juicy stems for the pie.
LEARN ABOUT FROST DATES – The Philadelphia area can expect a frost anywhere from October 15 to October 31. But there are so many shades of frost! There’s the just-too-cold-for-the-basil frost (gets down to 40;) the nipping frost (whacks the tops of the tomatoes and the edges of the annuals;) the really-heavy-dew-on-the-low-spots-on-the-lawn (kills off most of the annuals and any tomatoes you haven’t covered at night with a blanket;) the white-stuff-on-the-windows frost (makes all the leaves fall off the ginkgo trees in one day. This is also the “the –frost-is-on-the-pumpkin frost;) the killing frost (gets down below about 28, and kills off all that stuff you’ve been trying to protect; and the H***-freezes-over frost (where the ground freezes solid and hoses, rain barrels and water pipes burst, figs wipe out, and even the spinach dies.)
PLANT BULBS – Simple rules of bulbs: point side up, 3 times as deep as they are wide/tall. So a daffodil bulb is 2” tall; plant in a 6” hole. Planting deep enough keeps bulbs from being heaved up out of the ground. Put a tablespoon of bulb fertilizer in the hole; cover the whole thing with an inch or so of mulch as added insulation.
PUT YOUR AMARYLLIS IN THE BASEMENT – I brought mine in from plant camp this week, and the leaves are huge and beautiful. They need at least 6-8 weeks of dormancy, so I put them in the basement in total deprivation mode (no water, no light) till all the leaves die back. I’ll revive them on a sunny windowsill in January in time to bloom when the new store-bought ones are starting to fade.
Sally McCabe is Assoc. Director of Community Education at PHS, and grows stuff at two community gardens and in her backyard. She has been a faithful Primex customer since all the way back when Pops (David’s grandfather) was still around.