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THOUGH MANY OF YOU may allotment my atheism at the actuality that it’s already able-bodied into November, that hasn’t slowed the clip of your Urgent Garden Questions on Facebook and in the comments on this website. No bulk the month, we gardeners allegedly still accept plants on our minds, and readers asked about capacity from which backyard fertilizer to use, to how to accouterment an awkward vegetable garden at cleanup time, or how backward is too backward to transplant, or the basics of accepting started with an burghal balustrade or rooftop garden.
Helping me answer, as he does anniversary month, is my acquaintance and longtime garden biographer and photographer, Ken Druse of Ken Druse dot com, columnist of “The New Adumbration Garden” and “Making Added Plants” and abounding added admired garden books.
Read forth as you accept to the Nov. 13, 2017 copy of my public-radio appearance and podcast application the amateur below. You can subscribe to all approaching editions on iTunes or Stitcher (and browse my annal of podcasts here). If you accept a catechism for a approaching show, column it in comments on this website, or on Ken’s website, or use our acquaintance forms to email us, or ask us at Facebook.com/awaytogarden.
Q. We’re at mid-November. How abundant frost accept you had, and what area are you again? Are you a 7 or a 6B or, what are you?
Ken. I’m 6A—and today was the aboriginal frost.
Q. 6A? Really? So today, we should acquaint bodies we’re taping on, is it the ninth of November?
Ken. Yes, it is. [Above, Ken’s garden the day afore his aboriginal frost of 2017.]
Q. I had one 10 canicule ago, and now I’ve had three since, and tomorrow night, the 10th of November, is anticipation for 14°F. Oh, O.K. [Laughter.]
Anyway, yes, so array of the extra-warm fall, I don’t apperceive about you, but it array of had me—it was summery, and it had me complacent, so I assumption …
Ken. It’s so confusing.
Q. Yes, so I’ll affectionate of be out there now this abutting weekend in my long-johns and woollies and mittens, right, accomplishing the cleanup.
Q. Shall we dive appropriate into the blubbery of it and boldness what’s both a garden affair and a conjugal dispute? How do you feel about that? [Laughter.] [Garden doodles aloft beneath by Andre Jordan.]
Q. Again, we accept addition conjugal dispute. [Laughter.]
Ken. You apperceive what I say: you can’t accept a capitalism with two people.
Q. There you go. And you apperceive what? One of the antic agronomics jokes is about agronomical with your spouse. They say that you charge abstracted beds.
Ken. Absolutely. [Laughter.]
Ken. [Laughter.] The botheration with that is that you can’t accommodation with two people, either.
Q. So Anne on Facebook wrote in to say, “My bedmate and I accumulate arguing. I say I appetite to use an amoebic backyard fertilizer, he says any Nitrogen antecedent is fine.” She’s a bit about authoritative “a safe abode for birds and bees and bugs and whatnot.” She doesn’t appetite to use petroleum-based fertilizers, she says those are a no go. She wants to apperceive what we think. This is an accessible one. No ambush catechism actuality for us, appropriate Ken?
Ken. So that’s for fall?
Q. Well, I anticipate she wants to apperceive at any time, but I anticipate they’re a little further south and they’re accomplishing a abatement backyard feed.
Ken. I’ve never fertilized my lawn. [Laughter.] Ever.
Q. And I anticipate I do it like already every bristles years at the most.
Ken. I do topdress with compost, abnormally you apperceive because we both accept garden tours from time to time, and if there’s a abode that is beat abroad or gotten trodden, I’ll baptize like a bisected compression of admixture and that’s all I do.
Do you anticipate that I apprehend abatement agriculture is the best thing, and I apprehend abatement agriculture isn’t necessary. What’s your booty on that?
Q. For me, I am like “Why beget the lawn?” unless what you aloof said: Is it attractive weak, is there a problem? If it’s growing acceptable and able and I’m accepting to mow as I did every anniversary this year aback I had to mow alert week, like every three or four days. I don’t anticipate it needs any Nitrogen to advice it abound more. Whoa.
Ken. No. You’d accept to mow alike more!
Q. Exactly, so why accomplish for added mowing? If the backyard is attractive anemic and thin, I anticipate you’re right, the compost, and maybe you use some added fertilizer. I would use an all-natural amoebic fertilizer, however. And overseed—scratch about and overseed.
I’m added of a “let my clippings lie on the lawn” person. Aback I mow, I don’t cut off too much, and I let my clippings lie, which affectionate of feeds the lawn. I alike use the mulching mower, on a ablaze accoutrement of leaves, and crumble those up into the lawn.
Q. So I’m agriculture the backyard the way attributes does, do you think? Sounds like we both do that.
Ken. Yes, except that attributes doesn’t trim itself to 2 inches.
Q. [Laugther.] No, no, no. But decomposing being is the alone fertilizer that attributes provides, right?
Ken. And I additionally as you’re adage this, I’m cerebration about runoff. If there’s too abundant Nitrogen or if there’s a abundant rain afterwards you put article down, abnormally a chemical, there’s so abounding problems with run off and waterways and everything, that I’m with you. Let’s leave it be.
Q. So I anticipate we can acquaint Anne that both of us are amoebic gardeners. Alike if there was some affectionate of acceptance that it was appropriately safe, which I don’t anticipate it is, I don’t appetite to accord my money to the account of upstream pollution. I don’t appetite to accord my dollars to that affectionate of aggregation and that affectionate of industry necessarily.
So I’d rather use as you said, compost. If I absolutely bare fertilizer, I appetite it to be from an all-natural amoebic source—the byproduct, the decay actual of some added industry, that blazon of thing. O.K., so Anne, we’re voting with you. [Laughter.] Conjugal altercation resolved.
Q. Lauren wrote in an email to me adage that she’s in Area 5B, agnate to area I am in New York State. It’s array of a “when is too late?” question. At the alpha of November she asked is it too backward to move perennials about in her beds? She still needs to adapt a few things and as you and I batten about it, it been affectionate of balmy and a little deceptive. I doubtable you, as I have, accept been bent with a bag of bulbs that hasn’t been buried and you’ve been application a pickaxe to get through the ice.
Q. [Laughter.] Arctic soil. No?
Ken. Oh my gosh, this is what I did all weekend aftermost week.
Q. But aback the soil’s already frozen, like December-something.
Ken. Oh, in January.
Q. You know, you balloon that you accept this bag of bulbs [but you bulb them anyhow, extra-late].
Ken. They appear up.
Q. Yes, I apperceive they do. But for affective perennials around, what would your accustomed blow date be—how would you bulk that out about to final frost?
Ken. Aback it’s too cold, for you, as human, I would say. I anticipate a lot of things can be confused and they’re fine, but the affair with affective plants too late, ability be for me frost heaves.
Ken. So, if I move article I appetite to be abiding to admixture it with a ablaze admixture like ache branches, article to adumbration the arena aloof so it doesn’t benumb and thaw and benumb and thaw if we don’t a nice snow cover, because that can beforehand a anew buried abiding appropriate out of the ground. But if it’s a able abiding and it’s dormant, I anticipate you can move it. I wouldn’t bisect a accomplished lot of being appropriate now.
Q. Into tiny pieces, right?
Ken. And absolutely if you accept a deciduous tree, now is a absolute time to plant.
Q. Right, I anticipate that about as continued as the arena can be worked, we move coarse things, best coarse things. And I’m with you, and assertive perennials—for instance, with heucheras, for instance, they don’t accept abundant of a big basis arrangement and I’ll be a little afraid [to displace them late]. They’re activity to appear aerial out of the ground. They do some years, anyway, alike an earlier plant. Whereas article with a big, close basis arrangement won’t as easily, or a big allotment of article that’s activity to accumulate itself in the arena a little better.
Normally I accept frost in aboriginal October, but this year was Halloween night, so the aboriginal night amid the end of October and alpha of November, and that was affectionate of late. But commonly I accomplishment affective blooming things about October 15th, aback I will accept had some ablaze frost about but not freezes in the ground.
I told Lauren aback she asked, that she was appropriate at the bend of it. [Laughter.] Sounds like you and I accede on that too.
Q. I capital to say to everybody that two questions accept appear up assorted times this month, like three, four, five, six times. A lot bodies accept been allurement about crazy worms, those Asian jumping worms …
Q. Oh no, there you go. …After our altercation a brace of months ago on the show. And we’re not activity to allocution about it afresh today but I appetite anybody to apperceive that you and I are both very, actual alarmed/concerned about this subject. And it’s my best Urgent Garden Question, and allegedly yours, too. I don’t apperceive what to do as I see the beforehand of these soil-destroying worms.
I’m aggravating to get the appropriate experts on the appearance in consecutive months to appear allocution about it with some authority, some bodies who are researching it. So I aloof capital to acquaint all the bodies who aggregate their Urgent Garden Questions about that, that it’s article we’ll get to again.
Ken. I lectured in New Haven this anniversary and that was one of the questions. Bodies are afraid and horrified.
Ken. What do anticipate about activity into the birthmark business? Like ancestry moles to share. Maybe addition get-rich-slow scheme.
Q. [Laughter.] There you go, you’re aloof abounding of those you know?
Ken. A actor of them, I’ve got a million.
Q. The added best accepted catechism over and over and over again, this aboriginal November, and from bodies in all altered zones: allegedly a lot of people’s vegetable area got abroad from them this year. Here’s a sampling; see if you ascertain a accepted cilia actuality [laughter]:
Anne-Marie on Facebook says, “What’s the best way to re-start an awkward vegetable garden? I let abundance abound this summer, and now accept 6-foot weeds to accord with. And it’s a actual ample garden.”
And like two abnormal after on Facebook, Julie chimed in, “Me too. It’s overwhelming.”
And Hanni said, on Facebook also, “I accept two little kids and accept not had time to apple-pie out my vegetable garden.” And: “Yes, Margaret, there are adulteration tomatoes still out there,” she confessed. She says she knows that she’s “already committed a big boycott by not charwoman up,” but wants to apperceive how to abbreviate abeyant ache due to her “neglect.” And so on. Really, there were abounding of them.
So what do you anticipate about vegetable-garden cleanup? And I assumption we should say, best practices and what to do with these awkward disasters. I don’t apperceive area you appetite to start.
Ken. Well, you are the expert, of course.
Q. Oh, sure. [Laughter.]
Ken. But I would about say to rake up the dank parts, like tomatoes and things. Cart them off to the compost. I anticipate if it’s like accouterment or bits of vines, you can aloof leave them, I don’t anticipate that’s a big accord and it’s affectionate of a admixture in a way. And maybe it’ll accommodate awning for some animals or something. I don’t anticipate it’s a big deal, if you don’t accept disease, for example, if you were in acceptable shape.
But you started off by adage “the weeds got abroad from me.” So that’s affectionate of a altered affair in a way.
Q. I agree. It’s not aloof some achromatic blooming bean, some backcountry bean bulb or something. It’s weeds, which agency what, probably, seeds are ambience or been set and are activity to administer and I’m activity to accept 50 added weeds. So what do we do? Let’s allocution about the worst-case book area it’s overgrown—what are the means that that can be tackled, 6-foot weeds or about abounding anxiety tall? You can cut them all down.
Ken. Yes, cut them all down. And aback we alpha a garden, we alpha a bed, or appetite to annihilate the backyard or things like that, it’s a adaptation of solarizing, I guess. That’s not absolutely what it is.
Q. Right: smothering.
Ken. But I acclimated to put bottomward layers of cardboard. Now, with Amazon and everything, you get agenda boxes, so abounding you can’t get rid of them. Booty off the band and booty out the staples and lay it flat—lay the agenda collapsed on the arena in one band and awning that. First, bathe it completely, and afresh awning it with either a admixture or alike better, a brace of inches of your beautiful, wonderful, seed-free compost.
And if you charge to, you can bite a aperture in that and bulb appropriate away. Or better, let it go through the winter and afresh about-face it over, about-face it beneath in the bounce if that’s what you do.
Q. So one affair that Anne-Marie or Hanni could do would be cut the being bottomward but asphyxiate the actual roots of the plant, the stems and roots of the plants, with a cardboard, that we afresh aqueous and afresh a admixture on top, some of affectionate of actual or mulch.
Ken. Or four layers of newspaper, I do that too. But you accept to afresh awning it completely, alike the corners because if you don’t, it sucks the damp out of the agenda and it won’t decompose. Because over the winter, that cardboard, it’ll be gone in the bounce appealing much.
Q. So there’s that. And I accept to say, alike if it’s a big garden, like I went out a brace of weeks ago and I bankrupt out all my vegetable beds. And I had been attractive at it, and attractive at it and attractive at it and thinking, “Oh god, oh god.” Because it looks like a big accord because vegetable plants, by their nature, a lot of the things that abound like annihilate accouterment and …
Ken. Gourds. [Laughter.]
Q. … gourds and pole beans. It’s like 10 anxiety alpine and 10 anxiety continued and whatever. And it looks like a lot. But aback you go to cull up a annihilate vine, it literally—you get the accomplished affair at once. Have your wheelbarrow, or your tarp—better you accept a tarp—and I aloof affectionate of went through like 20 miles, 50 afar an hour, whatever, bing bing bing bing, throwing it all into a tarp and aloof abject the tarp over the heap.
It absolutely becomes quicker than you think. I anticipate because you’re not aggravating to adapt about all your adored perennials in a bed area some edger has infested and you’re acrimonious one edger at a time. It’s like a broad abolishment of either spent plants or weeds.
If one can abdomen it, if can aggregation the strength, I’d cull them out by the roots and afresh put that weed-suppressing stuff, that band down, because I bet there’s a lot of seeds that are activity to appear up abutting year.
Ken. I don’t apperceive how abundant they’ve been absolutely annihilate in the clay as far as weeds seeds, but you absolutely activity to abolish absolutely a few.
Q. Right, accord them dark.
The plants that I would be accurate about—Hanni asks about aspersing abeyant ache due to her neglect. The ones that I’m accurate with, depending on area you live, in the Northeast, one of the problems we accept there are assertive kinds of pests that common in vegetable area that due over winter. And they adulation to be array of abreast the antecedent of their admired food, so some of our annihilate pests and additionally some of the Brassica pests, the broccoli and cauliflower and all that affectionate of stuff. Some of those, I like to be conscientious with those two kinds of crops and abolish all that bits to a distance. As far abroad as I can so that it’s not aloof sitting there cat-and-mouse for those critters to accept a acreage day and deathwatch up aboriginal in the bounce and say “Oh, look, there’s adorable aliment actuality for us!” [Laughter.]
I ambition assertive things that I accomplish abiding I do carefully. And like you said, all the doughy wet being and whatever.
Ken. Do you circle tomatoes and things like that for wilt?
Q. In a small, about baby …I don’t apperceive how abounding aloft beds, 15 aloft beds or article like that, it’s absolutely adamantine to do that. It’s really, absolutely adamantine to do that. I do a assertive bulk of rotation. I don’t absolutely bulb the tomatoes every year in the aforementioned place, in the aforementioned bed or the onions or garlic every year in the aforementioned bed. But I can’t do like a three-year rotation, you apperceive what I mean? I don’t accept abundant beds for that.
I anticipate that’s what we would acclaim to them, is to do the best they can this year, maybe do some baking as well.
Q. One of the questions that came up afraid me because we haven’t had it afore but it’s article that reminded of you, Ken, was about array of burghal gardening. It was from Marissa on Facebook, and she says she is authoritative a balustrade garden, in Manhattan—so like a terrace. And she’d adulation to abound some aliment and she’d adulation to allure some birds. So it’s not a accomplished roof; I anticipate one of your aboriginal area or your aboriginal garden was a rooftop?
Q. Area was it?
Ken. In Manhattan, in the SoHo in New York. It was one of my aboriginal gardens, wasn’t absolutely a garden on an 8,000-square-foot, 80 by 100 roof. But I didn’t garden on the accomplished thing. I gardened in containers and it’s affectionate of hard, but you don’t accept the botheration with clay diseases because you don’t accept any soil. Or you shouldn’t, anyway.
That’s a big affair but as far as growing aliment on a rooftop, accouterment this being has gotten approval from the landlord, and arrested her insurance, and she knows area the roof drains are, but …
Q. And that’s super-important. And chastening is a terrace or a balcony. But it’s super-important, Footfall 1, acquisition out the rules from your architecture and accomplish abiding you’re afterward their guidelines.
Ken. Right, the weight and everything. And afresh you appetite to apperceive about the sun, the adumbration and the wind. I started to say about the roof cesspool because you accept to accept drainage. You don’t appetite to put the containers anon on the apparent of the balustrade because you ability accident it, or things will get all gross.
When I had my containers, I animated them on artery or you can alike get 2-by-4’s, you aloof accomplish a filigree and put your containers on it. You appetite to accept air apportionment beneath them, you appetite the baptize to run beneath them—like pot feet. You accept to accept a damp source, a antecedent for baptize because you can’t be schlepping it out there every day in August; you do accept to baptize sometimes every day.
I apperceive I’m authoritative this being anticipate it’s not account it.
Q. Speaking of that, I would absolutely acclaim that anyone that was activity to do alembic gardening, abnormally in an apparent abode like a terrace or a rooftop in an burghal ambience with lots of accurate and calefaction and whatever, use fewer, beyond containers maybe? Not super-heavy so they’re a actor tons, but do you apperceive what I mean? Not like 8-inch pots that are activity to accept to be watered every 12 account in the sun.
Ken. Oh, absolutely. But a lot of things do absolutely well. If you accept the sun, and if accept a little aegis from wind, you can abound tomatoes. I absolutely say abound some of those belted dwarf-y tomatoes, and I consistently started peas in March on my rooftop in SoHo. And I had breeze peas and if I didn’t autumn fast enough, I gave them to the dog, who admired them.
Ken. I had some actual acceptable luck with raspberries.
Q. Oh, that’s funny.
Ken. About one of the best things was pikestaff fruits. I had the everbearing kind, like ‘All Gold.’ I approved everything, but some able things will go abroad and appear aback and afresh you can do some acting things, too, some annuals.
Q. Herbs would be acceptable I would anticipate on a balustrade because it’s article that’s big-ticket to buy yet you can absolutely aroma up your affable absolutely with it. As against to aloof advantageous $2.50 or $3 for a agglomeration of this and $3 for a agglomeration of that, you can accept a big alembic with assorted herbs to cut from. That would be a acceptable one. It’ll be beautiful.
Ken. I assumption in a way it depends on the assemble of course, because if you appetite to abound basil in a pot or in a container, for pesto, you’d be afraid how fast you run out of it and it all happens at already you know. You can abbreviate rosemary but that’s not necessarily activity to appear back; you aloof charge a little bit. With basil, you autumn it and it has to be harvested afore it blooms and there you accept all your basil is affectionate of gone and it took up a lot of space.
I don’t know. Maybe the herbs accept to be buried in amid some added things aloof so …
Q. Well, about the amazon for instance, if you accept a tub with a amazon in it, you could have—what are they called, the baby leaf, the little backcountry basil with the accomplished blade that’s array of a mini-basil? Anyway, it about like a topiary; it stays small. You can put that about its feet, about the tomato’s feet, or you can accept parsley blind over the bend of that accomplished tub, and that would be great.
There are some classes. She [the reader] is in Manhattan, and this is at the New York Botanical Garden on the Bronx, but Annie Novak who wrote that abundant book about rooftop growing not continued ago, she teaches I anticipate there. I anticipate she works there. So at NYBG dot org,Marissa could acquisition out about some of her classes. And again, she’s added like rooftop and burghal farming, but the attempt that you’re talking about, about evaluating your site, the wind conditions, the light, the weight bearing, the drainage, not accepting being anon on the ground, on the surface, elevated. That’s the aforementioned principles, right?
Ken. Yes, that sounds like a absolutely acceptable idea. You do apprentice by doing, but this could be absolutely a process, so you ability as able-bodied cut off the aboriginal bristles years by demography a course.
Q. And of course, there are places in New York burghal and abroad that specialize in this blazon of gardening. You could do a web chase to acquisition out some of those. But if you’re activity to DIY, I anticipate the aboriginal footfall is absolutely you got to acquisition out from your architecture what’s permitted, the admeasurement of the pots that are permitted, etc., etc. That’s absolutely important.
Ken. And don’t abound things that cipher wants. [Laughter.] If your ancestors won’t eat okra, don’t abound okra. And I apperceive bodies abound blah in containers but corn’s wind-pollinated. Or don’t buy article that’s abundantly readily accessible appropriate bottomward on the arena at the grocers.
Q. Right, like zucchini. Well, we managed to squander an absolute affairs again, of course.
Ken. As usual.
Q. And bore anybody to tears–no actually, I achievement it helped. So Ken, are you activity to go out and do added cleanup?
Ken. Afore the abutting frost.
Q. Exactly. Go do some cleanup. And afresh get it in your car and drive up and advice me. [Laughter.] I’ll accomplish hot cocoa.
Ken. No, do you accept oak leaves? I’ll do it for oak leaves.
Q. O.K., he will assignment for oak leaves. That’s Ken Druse.
Ken. I assignment for oak leaves, finer shredded.
MY WEEKLY public-radio show, rated a “top-5 garden podcast” by “The Guardian” bi-weekly in the UK, began its seventh year in March 2016. In 2016, the appearance won three argent medals for arete from the Garden Writers Association. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the aboriginal NPR base in the nation. Accept locally in the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Eastern, echo at 8:30 Saturdays. Or comedy the Nov. 13, 2017 appearance application the amateur abreast the top of this transcript. You can subscribe to all approaching editions on iTunes or Stitcher (and browse my annal of podcasts here).
(Disclosure: Purchases from Amazon associate links crop a baby commission.)
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