YES, IT’S TIME or nearly time to do some raking, and to dig the dahlias to stash: time to carry out the rounds of the autumn cleanup, and put the backyard to mattress. However Ken Druse and I wish to advocate for a type of “cleanup-plus”—for tending not simply to the plain chores, but additionally performing some reflection, and making time for often-overlooked late-season duties like seed-saving.
Or for lastly transplanting a kind of two overcrowded shrubs which were screaming for extra elbow room, and you retain swearing to rescue them, however by no means fairly get to it.
You all know Ken Druse, creator of 20 spectacular backyard books, an outdated pal and my colleague the previous couple of years in our Digital Backyard Membership on-line programs, which resume in January. (That’s the view of his fall backyard, above.) We’ve been speaking this week collectively on the cellphone about how we’re winding down our respective backyard seasons, and we wished to allow you to in on a number of the particulars that we hope will assist you in your individual cleanup-plus.
Learn alongside as you hearken to the Nov. 6, 2023 version of my public-radio present and podcast utilizing the participant under. You possibly can subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).
fall ‘cleanup-plus,’ with ken druse
Margaret Roach: Are you prepared for some “plus,” Ken? [Laughter.] How’s it going?
Ken Druse: Doesn’t it appear acquainted? Like yearly, and in addition each spring and each fall? It’s fall, however it doesn’t really feel like… Properly, the climate’s been very heat. However once we began eager about speaking about this stuff, it jogged my memory that that’s what we do within the spring too, is look.
Margaret: Yeah. And actually most of all, to advocate for type of not being on autopilot, not simply robotically doing the literal issues that must be executed. Such as you have been saying the opposite day, oh, the hoses must be taken in, the water needs to be turned off earlier than large freezes and stuff. Yeah, after all, that’s proper; that’s on our record, however it’s type of consciously trying round, fastidiously trying round for different issues. So first, earlier than we try this, possibly we should always type of take inventory a little bit bit out loud, type of the highs and lows [laughter] of the season that’s winding down. Received any highs or lows?
Ken: Yeah. Properly, I’ve acquired fairly a couple of highs and never that many lows. Once we discuss issues like this, I all the time begin with flood [laughter] as a result of there’s been so many floods right here that we constructed up the wall; we talked about that final yr. So that is the second yr of the total yr of the built-up wall. And there was one large storm and a few water got here by means of the wall as a result of it’s not an ideal wall, however it’s simply made puddles and no particles, no items of wooden. And I in all probability instructed you this, we all the time get outdated sneakers [laughter], beer cans and sneakers.
Margaret: Proper. So for individuals who don’t know, you’re type of on an island, in a river or stream. And so, one space would overwhelm, overflow its banks, and would deliver all this. Not simply water, however the stuff, together with sneakers into your backyard and make an enormous mess. Properly, that’s good that the wall restore from final yr made an enchancment for you. That’s nice. That’s nice. So what else, plus or minus?
Ken: Plus or minus, bushes didn’t get eaten. I haven’t had, I shouldn’t say this whereas I knock on wooden. We don’t have lanternflies and we don’t have gypsy moths. These are cons. I imply, professionals, I imply cons which might be professionals.
Margaret: Proper. So you’re feeling lucky for these components this season?
Ken: Completely. And there’s some issues I do know I’ve to do to keep away from a few of these issues. And there’s all types of issues like cleansing up. We will discuss a number of the issues that one ought to do to arrange for the great issues which might be nonetheless going to come back.
Margaret: Yeah. Properly, first I have to complain, although. Is the Grievance Division open? [Laughter.]
Ken: In fact. “Hey? Grievance Division, might I assist you?”
Margaret: Good. O.Ok., nice. You may have about 10 hours? Properly, so it was very… Within the Northeast and in lots of areas, clearly the climate was aberrant as it’s today typically. However we had very, very moist, unusually moist climate, and rain got here in a number of inches at a time many weeks. And in order that promoted plenty of fungal issues and points.
And so I misplaced for the primary time in 35 or 40 years, I misplaced all my garlic, for instance, to a white mould, which I didn’t ship it out to a pathology lab, and I don’t know which one it was. However whether or not it was contaminated seed garlic that got here to me that manner, or who is aware of what. So clearly I’ve to maneuver the garlic to a spot distant from the place I had been rising it, if I’m going to strive it once more and get new inventory, my new bulbs, which I did. However-
Ken: Did this present up on the leaves? Is that the way you knew it was taking place?
Margaret: No, at harvest time, the precise bulbs.
Ken: The bulbs?
Margaret: Yeah. So I imply, they began to look unhealthy mid- to late season. However anyway, so there’s the entire “what’s occurring with the climate?” and does that correlate to ailments we’re seeing in crops? I imply, lots of people had their lilacs defoliate by August or one thing after which bloom.
Ken: Sure. After which ours bloomed.
Margaret: After which bloom in October. I imply nutsy stuff. So there was plenty of that. I used to be besieged by spongy moths. You have been saying you have been fortunate to not have them. I had the spongy moths this yr, my first large expertise with them. However one of many issues I’m doing is I’m attempting to focus, to comply with your recommendation. What do you all the time inform me if I’m overwhelmed, what to do?
Ken: Do one factor. That actually occurs within the spring particularly, the way you stroll out the door and also you see the entire backyard and there’s a thousand issues that must be executed and also you wish to simply run again inside. However don’t try this. Simply choose—even when you repot one plant—simply choose one factor after which one factor results in one other. It’s only a manner to assist with the spring and fall overwhelm.
Margaret: Yeah, so for me, I made a decision that within the face of those torrential, persistent rain occasions and the spongy moth harm—and we had a late freeze in late Might that broken plenty of issues and on and on and on. I’ve the invasive leaping worms and every kind of stuff. I used to be feeling type of beat up. However I simply determined with the helper that comes as soon as per week for a part of a day, I stated, “You already know what? We’re not going to ‘repair all the pieces’ proper now, proper?” As a result of it’s been a troublesome season; stuff’s trying beat up. “However you understand what let’s do? Let’s concentrate on one thing that may really feel actually good to perform.”
And we recognized one type of invasive factor that was making itself current within the higher meadow in plenty of these type of outer areas, which is brambles, Rubus, some type of blackberry or raspberry wild factor. And we determined that that was what we’d sort out. And it feels so good. It’s not gussying up the backyard, it’s not fine-tuning, it’s not horticulture precisely, proper?
But it surely feels actually good, the concept I’m going to begin subsequent spring with out that, with these areas that have been like: ooh, you needed to cowl your eyes. You didn’t wish to look over there since you knew the Rubus was taking up. So only one factor, and again and again and over. In order that’s been type of what I’ve been attempting to do to offset my disappointment in a number of the losses on this very unusual yr.
Ken: I take into consideration possibly seven or eight years in the past once I was going to surrender gardening due to Japanese stiltgrass in August, I went, that’s what I selected. I’m going to simply pull as a result of it comes proper out and mow, if it’s within the garden. I’m going to drag the Japanese stiltgrass and it knocked it again I’d say 80 p.c. [Tackling Japanese stiltgrass.]
Margaret: Proper. So typically simply that focusing feels actually good. Now I’m as a result of this was a really moist, and as I stated, like fungusy-
Ken: Aside from one month of no rain in Might.
Margaret: At first, proper.
Ken: Has that ever occurred earlier than?
Margaret: Yeah, I believe it has. However you had good tomatoes; often these will simply go down the tubes. Didn’t you’ve good tomatoes?
Ken: You have been saying professional and I couldn’t consider a factor.
Margaret: Properly, I bear in mind you telling me on the cellphone the opposite day that you just had good tomatoes.
Ken: I do know. By no means have been in a position to develop tomatoes nicely, and even hardly in any respect. And I did develop some on the driveway, on the sunniest spot in pots, however I’d get two or three fruits. Properly, this yr I paid consideration to you, too, and I acquired a few varieties that you just stated have been so nice, particularly ‘Juliet’ [above]. And I acquired two of these corrugated metallic raised beds and put one within the sunniest place, which is virtually on the mailbox, proper subsequent to the mailbox.
I in all probability have all this terrible stuff from vehicles going by as a result of it’s proper on the street. However I crammed it and I planted ‘Juliet.’ And I began them too early, which turned out to be O.Ok., and gave quite a bit away as a result of I had too many crops, however I planted them. And simply this week I nonetheless acquired a couple of tomatoes. So I’ve been, I don’t know, a whole bunch of ‘Juliet’ tomatoes. And also you’re proper, they’re scrumptious.
Margaret: It’s an awesome one. Yeah, Johnny’s Chosen Seeds catalog sells it.
I additionally managed to do one thing that neither certainly one of us ever does, which is to surrender on sure crops, particularly houseplants this fall. As an alternative of bringing all of them in, together with a couple of that have been type of well past prime, I tossed a couple of, I lastly composted a few them. I do know. And I assumed, oh, I may simply take that tiny little piece and I may put it in one other pot. However you understand what? I may begin over, too. And I acquired some new houseplants, a few new houseplants, and it simply feels good typically to lighten the load. You possibly can actually spend plenty of time being slowed down by a number of the arduous issues.
Ken: You in all probability neglect, too. You already know, you assume you’re going to overlook this factor and then you definately get distracted by one thing else.
Margaret: Yeah. I’ve some ideas about seeds and I wager you do, too, since you’re all the time like Mr. Propagation over there. Any type of seeds stuff presently of yr for you?
Ken: Properly, I all the time look as a result of as you stated, I need extra, for some motive. I believe I similar to the method. So I’ll go get the nicotiana [above] and another issues which might be usually making seed which might be simple to get this time of yr. Some issues that self-sow, like hellebores, I would plan to maneuver them. Japanese painted fern from spores self “spored” [laughter] and I’ll transfer a few of these.
Margaret: Self-spored [laughter].
Ken: Yeah, I’ve to make notes about that. However one thing that I actually haven’t checked out very a lot, you understand how these terrible lilies make a little bit tiny beads alongside the stems? They’re bulbils, and I don’t need these as a result of that’s type of a weedy plant, however I do know-
Margaret: Which lilies are we speaking about which might be terrible? I’m sorry.
Ken: It’s Lilium bulbiferum.
Margaret: Bulbiferum? Oh, I don’t assume I’ve that, O.Ok. All proper.
Ken: Good. And when you see one thing that has a reputation like bulbiferus or bulbiferum, it’s as a result of it makes another type of vegetative reproductive organism alongside the stems they usually’re referred to as bulbils. And I observed this yr, nicely, you’ve seen it on the Allium. You understand how typically the Allium, it seems like a flower, however on the prime it’s acquired all these little onions in a cluster?
Margaret: Proper, so these bulbils, proper? O.Ok.
Ken: Proper. And people will… They’re genetically clones. They’re similar to the mother or father plant. So you can truly get these and develop them on. However the factor that actually turned me on, I’ve a few hardy begonias, and I believe that Issima has been taking part in round with them as a result of we have now one which has white flower. I like those with white flower. White flowers, silver splashes on the leaves. And there’s a pink one with silver splashes on the leaves, too. However I observed within the axles the place the leaf meets the stem, there’s these little, they’re actually tiny, nearly like seeds, however they’re truly little crops, or they may very well be.
Margaret: So that you stated Issima, and so that you imply the type of rare-plant nursery in Rhode Island, Issima?
Ken: Ed Bowen’s.
Margaret: Yeah. So you bought these hardy begonias; it’s a perennial begonia even for you in zone, what are you 6?
Margaret: Yeah, begonia, what’s the species? I don’t know which one it’s. We’ll must look it up. [Update: It’s Begonia grandis, above.] So you’ve this perennial exhibiting a few varieties, and it’s making these little bulbils additionally, huh?
Ken: Yeah. So now I’ll develop them on, in all probability they’d fall when the plant falls to the bottom. They in all probability, some will root in, however I’m going to assist them alongside.
Margaret: Now I’ve observed I’ve some voodoo lilies. I’ve each Sauromatum and Amorphophallus. And a few the Amorphophallus, and people are those that typically the botanical gardens have the actually, actually large one, the Titan Arum, as they name it, the place it’s going to flower and it’s going to be actually smelly like useless rotten meat scent or one thing, they’ll have a particular occasion as a result of it’s so dramatic-looking and smelly. However anyway, these are smaller than that. However I’ve one which’s Amorphophallus bulbifer, the species bulbifer.
Margaret: Proper. So like what you simply stated, and don’t you understand I’ve had quite a lot of years, and so now a few of my crops, they go dormant within the winter and I retailer them within the cellar, the bulbs, have bulbils on prime of the leaves. So there’s bulbils in numerous little type of joints in these very complex-looking leaves. And it’s hilarious. It seems like some little spherical pebbles acquired glued onto the leaves or one thing [laughter]. It’s actually humorous. So that you just’re making me assume that I ought to go seize these.
Ken: And go into enterprise, lastly make some cash, proper?
Margaret: Yeah, that’s a good suggestion. So are you additionally, you have been saying different sure seed. So that you’re gathering a few of your favourite nicotianas? Is that what you do, those that you just favored what they appeared like, or…?
Ken: Proper. Let’s say I need perfume, after all. And so I’ll make notice in my head of those which might be extra-fragrant within the night or earlier, as a result of a few of them are aromatic round 4 o’clock. So I’ll say, “Oh, I’d like that.” And the higher colours, possibly a darkish purple one. Properly, not possibly; I’ve executed that, a darkish purple one. And the seed pods on nicotiana, whereas the plant’s flowering, these little pods are ripening. So it’s really easy. So now I’ve like 10,000 of these.
Margaret: Yeah, I’ve had nicotiana in a couple of areas, type of self-sown populations for the later a part of the season for a lot of, many, a few years. And so the species that I began with, very distinctive-looking specific ones like mutabilis, Nicotiana mutabilis, which may be very tall and so forth. I don’t know what occurs, if they only type of don’t come true. Properly, I do know they don’t come true; there’s variation inside every inhabitants.
However after this a few years, in all probability 20 years, I used to be feeling like I didn’t have as a lot oomph as I wished, by way of such as you’re saying, a number of the darker-flowered ones or a number of the significantly statuesque ones. So I truly simply ordered some seed, and I additionally did this with Verbena bonariensis, the tall verbena that the butterflies love a lot and so forth, as a result of I had an awesome inhabitants of it in a single space, a self-sown inhabitants, which was very dramatic, however it’s type of, as self-sowns do, it determined the place it wished to sow, over there and over there and over there, however not within the concentrated manner that I like [laughter]. So to get type of the opposite colours of the nicotiana again in my populations, and to heavy up on the Verbena bonariensis, I truly ordered some packets of seeds.
And each fall I neglect to do that as a result of these are like these self-sown issues. Each fall I neglect to do that. And so I both don’t unfold it round now, or I don’t have it early sufficient to try this in very late winter, which I believe is a perfect time for sowing it as nicely. I’ll simply neglect, I get caught up with ordering tomatoes and stuff like that.
Ken: However now you’ll bear in mind, as a result of it’s executed.
Margaret: Properly, I’ve it. There it’s. I’ve acquired it proper in entrance of me. And so I’m going to type of, like I stated, heavy up and redirect these clusters of verbena and nicotiana the place I need them a little bit extra.
Ken: Yeah, I used to be going to say a few of these issues that you understand self-sow, it could be an concept to clear a little bit house and make it type of ready. Particularly because you’re eager about you need them and also you’re going to maneuver some, that simply make it 1 foot by 1 foot or 2 foot by 2 foot cleared house with floor prepared to simply accept the seeds that fall.
Margaret: Proper, like a touchdown pad, so to talk. Yeah, as a result of in any other case, if there’s thick leaf litter or no matter from the autumn and winter—I imply, you’re proper, there’s not that open floor that’s welcoming to an excellent self-sowing, or for me sowing both. Yeah. So I believe that’s true: to make some room beneath a few of our favourite biennials and self-sowing annuals and so forth.
Have you ever had any pests that you just’re going to… The pest factor is sufficient to drive an individual loopy typically.
Ken: Properly, this yr it’s voles once more.
Margaret: Oh, the yr of the vole.
Ken: And first I began seeing the paths throughout the paths, the place you may see the path. And nicely, we’ve been trapping some. We hate speaking about it.
Margaret: Proper, so that you see the floor tunnels, yeah. And people are trapped, like mice are trapped. Yeah, no, and typically you don’t know you’ve voles, you don’t see the floor tunnels reduce into the garden or no matter, however you go and also you attempt to harvest your candy potatoes they usually’ve all been chewed up underground. You already know what I imply?
Ken: Otherwise you’re questioning what occurred to the Siberian iris. As a result of they’re simply gone.
Margaret: At half-mast, proper, proper, proper. Going underground.
Ken: And the voles adore it as a result of the foliage falls over and it’s a spot for them to cover after which they eat the rhizomes. However years in the past—and possibly I ought to do that once more—once I first had voles, it will sound so bizarre, I unfold used cat litter, the clay type, over the Siberian iris as a result of that was the factor they cherished. And it repelled them.
Margaret: I wager it did. It might repel me, too [laughter].
Ken: Properly, the clay, it doesn’t matter. It goes away.
Margaret: However so pest stuff, I imply, fall is a vital time, and plenty of instances we neglect to do that as a result of once more, we don’t have a crop within the floor that we’re hoping to get a harvest from, as a result of that’s executed already. So we type of neglect to do the pest management.
And it’s a extremely vital time once we’re pulling aside our vegetable gardens. I imply with, once more, tomatoes, that are so inclined to varied ailments, particularly fungal ones. And with brassicas with the cabbage and cauliflower and broccoli and kale and so forth, kinfolk and the squashes, the cucurbits that get squash bugs and so forth. A whole lot of these pests of these teams of crops or these ailments of the tomatoes, the fungal issues, they like nothing higher than to overwinter the place you’ve left behind the basis system and the pale foliage of their favourite yummy crop, proper [laughter]? So good hygiene, good fall hygiene within the vegetable backyard.
Ken: And also you’re making me consider certainly one of our newest pests, the leaping worms. I believe the adults don’t make it by means of the winter in our chilly gardens.
Margaret: Appropriate. They’re annuals, right.
Ken: However the-
Margaret: …Cocoons do.
Ken: Yeah. Little cocoons.
Margaret: Stuffed with eggs.
Ken: Are you attempting one thing? Stuffed with eggs. Are you attempting one thing for that?
Margaret: It’s a fairly dropping battle up to now. I imply, the scientists don’t know what to inform us to do actually to counteract it. However what I’m doing, simply in self-defense a little bit bit, the place the worms are the worst in sure areas the place they began out in my backyard, I’m every fall topping up, I’m including bagged topsoil or bulk topsoil. Simply in sure areas the place sure crops appear to be the soil’s been degraded an excessive amount of, and the crops aren’t going to be completely happy, I’m simply type of topdressing and so forth with soil.
Now that’s primarily feeding the worms, as a result of the subsequent yr’s technology goes to course of that soil. But it surely’s both that, or the crops are going to fall out of the bottom in sure spots. In order that’s what I’m doing.
I’m going to, there’s a few merchandise that, there’s a tea seed meal pure fertilizer that’s again in the marketplace once more. After which there’s one other product which will assist to deliver the worms to the floor throughout their lively season, so that you could eliminate them—you may destroy them, drown them, no matter—or which will truly kill them. [More on those products and tactics.]
Once more, it’s not going to unravel the entire drawback, however it could assist you cut back the inhabitants in order that the variety of cocoons which might be left behind on the finish of the yr usually are not as many. However when you’ve got a pair acres, neglect it; it’s not going to be the reply. However I’ll do a few small experiments subsequent spring and summer time throughout lively season.
However earlier than we run out of time, I simply wish to ask you: Are you going to seek out time to maneuver any woody crops or something? As a result of I do know I’ve a few issues crammed in I have to cope with.
Ken: I’ve been doing it, as a result of you understand it’s shady right here. And that’s a technique you may let you know’re in bother with a woody plant is it doesn’t look good and issues are taking place. So we moved a Cornus kousa ‘Elizabeth Lustgarten’ weeping kousa dogwood. I assumed that can by no means make it. It made it. Moved it to extra solar. A kind of twig dogwoods, we moved that to extra solar, and we’re going to maneuver some Salix which have colourful stems within the winter there, too.
Margaret: Oh, some willows, huh? Twig willows.
Ken: Yeah. Within the shade they don’t appear to be something, they usually don’t push that new progress. So I’ve already moved a few of these, however whenever you transfer… We don’t have solar, however we’re shoehorning them in and a few issues that, nicely, there’s some issues like hellebores that may go to the shade, and a few ferns too, so.
Margaret: However with woody crops, deciduous woody issues, even into the late fall continues to be time to try this. And subsequent spring it’s going to be too busy, proper, so…
Ken: Proper. In order that’s taking place.
Margaret: All proper. Properly maintain making the record. I’ll name you later [laughter]. We’ll discuss, we’ll commiserate extra, however yeah, so cleanup plus with some acutely aware effort, some trying round extra intently. So thanks for making time. I’ll speak to you quickly, O.Ok.?
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MY WEEKLY public-radio present, rated a “top-5 backyard podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper within the UK, started its 14th yr in March 2023. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station within the nation. Pay attention domestically within the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Japanese, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the Nov. 6, 2023 present utilizing the participant close to the highest of this transcript. You possibly can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).