Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Falling into Winter

It's early November, and the weather is crisp and sunny, but not cold. Time to do the first pass on winterizing the yard. I've taken the mango wood table apart and stored it with the chairs in a den closet. I didn't realize I had that kind of room in there! I purged a lot of stuff this Fall, had a tag sale or two and I'm happy to say that I don't need to pay for a storage unit any more ;-)

I'll make room in the cedar shed for all the garden guys.

I took the last tomatoes off the vine. They've stopped growing, so I'm letting them ripen indoors. They're so good to roast, to pop into a salad, to slice on a sammie or toss into an omelet.

 I raked the leaves, put them in the compost bin, and pruned the weeping cherry tree--there were some crossing branches and some dead limbs.

I loosened the dirt to plant bulbs, and had to switch to the other side of the yard, pronto. I dug up some fat, fuzzy, drowsy bumblebees completely by accident. I covered them back up and hope that I didn't ruin their nest.

Bulbs need a cold period to develop roots and to flower well in the Spring. Plant them 6 weeks before the ground hardens and there is a steady frost.

I plant some in bunches like this for a profusion of color, and some are more spread out...in a single layer.  One wrinkle to this lovely autumn tradition, bulbs are very attractive to squirrels and chipmunks. They rely on their sense of smell and they discover newly planted bulbs when they are burying their food stores for the winter. Chipmunks store food in one place, and squirrels are more scattered...forgetting where they dug, so they have many areas with nuts buried. They both love crocuses and tulips, but find daffodils distasteful. A cat or a dog can chase them away from the yard. I have no pets and I learned the hard way not to leave bulbs unprotected!

There are lots of 'remedies' for keeping these curious critters away...ranging from rolling out, cutting and anchoring chicken wire or mesh hardware cloth, to sprinkling cayenne pepper in the bulb hole and on top of the dirt, to spreading feline-urine soaked cat litter on top (yuck!) or placing a layer of human hair. That's even more yucky! I cannot see going to a salon to request a bag o' hair. And in NYC I think you'd have more than just squirrels digging up the yard---it might attract cops!

I have a simple solution. I buy a roll of fiberglass screening, and cut it to fit over the areas where I've planted bulbs. It's soft and easy to cut.

I weigh the edges down with bricks or firewood, and I take the screening up in March...when I can see the teeny beginnings of sprouts coming up.

Spread a layer of leaves on top to keep warm, and your bulbs will be disguised and safe from predators!

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