One of the things a gardener has to do every year is to fertilize the garden. If you clean out the garden every year, all those plant clippings are taking nutrients out of the soil that need to be replaced.
You have a number of choices every year from standard 10-10-10 fertilizer to organic fertilizers, but another choice is to just use compost.
A video series I have been watching recently is by Charles Dowding and his practice is to put two inches of compost on top of the soil every year and that’s it. He doesn’t dig it in, but lets it sit on top of the soil. He does this every year and is able to get two crops of vegetables every year.
While it is possible to make your own compost, it’s a lot of work. What I prefer to do is just buy it from StLCompost.com for $25/cu yard.
They even have a calculator so that you can figure out exactly how much you will need.
I did the calculation for a 4′ x 8′ garden bed and you would need .2 cu. ft. of compost. If you do the math, that works out to just $5.00
The only catch is that you will need to bring a pickup to get the compost. They will dump it into your truck. If you don’t need a full cubic yard, you can share it with your friends and neighbors.
Here is a video by Charles Dowding and his method.
The trick is to get the older standard version, not a newer species. The picture above is an older hydrangea which is a magnet for bees and pollinators in my garden. The Summer Azure will also lay eggs on the flower buds.
A newer variety I have, Limelight, has beautiful flowers, but does not attract any pollinators.
This will bloom and provide nectar for early spring butterflies. It is also a host plant for spring/summer azures. Dark fruit in the fall for birds. This plant will sucker, so this could be a problem in some settings. 10′ – 20′ tall and wide. Sun to partial shade.
This time of year, mid-October, is a good time to look for caterpillars and chrysalises and bring them into a protected area.
The problem with just letting them stay on plants is that they may not develop properly with the colder temperatures. Also, if they do make it to the chrysalis stage, they are so well camouflaged, that they are almost impossible to find in the spring when you are cleaning up the garden waste.
Monarchs need to fly to Mexico, so as soon as they form the chrysalis, try and keep them in a warmer area so they can develop into the butterfly stage. When it gets over 50 degrees, you can release them outside.
Black Swallowtails over-winter in the chrysalis stage. I like to keep the chrysalises in the garage which is not heated. They will usually emerge in April. If you do find a chrysalis in a outside area that you won’t be messing with, leave it alone.
Giant Swallowtails also over-winter in the chrysalis stage, so if you have them keep them in a cold area over the winter.
I like to raise caterpillars in a fish tank covered with a metal mesh screen. I put paper towels on the bottom. The caterpillars climb to the top and hang from the mesh. I prefer this method since it is easy to sanitize the fish tank with a bleach solution.
Another method is to use a laundry hamper with paper towels on the bottom.
Collecting seeds in the fall is the easy way to start hundreds of plants for no cost. If you figure that many plants can cost $10.00, you could save hundreds and thousands of dollars by collecting and planting your own seed.
I’m opening up my gardens to anyone who wants to collect seed. Oct. 6th – Saturday – 10 a.m. 9016 Robyn Rd – 63126
Bring: paper lunch bags, black marker, pruning shears or scissors.
Here are seeds available in my yard at this time of the year.
If you haven’t already, now is a good time to take some cuttings from your plants to root over the winter months.
I’m going to do a few experiments and try different rooting mediums. My current teacher for Horticulture 101 doesn’t say which type is better, but says that he has good luck with Meramec river gravel – it’s cheap, has the right texture and does a good job.
That’s what we are using in class. I bought the same type of sand at Home Depot – they call it Quickrete Premium Play Sand. It’s a coarse sand – not like what you might find at a beach.
Make sure you take a look at my posting on the14 steps I take to make cuttings. It’s actually fairly easy.
Here are the different mediums I am using for cuttings.