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Extending the Growing Season

Extending the Growing Season (1)

31 Oct

Don’t let cooler temperatures and the impending winter season stop you from gardening. Take advantage of every nice day and use these five strategies to keep gardening and enjoying your landscape.

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  1. Add a splash of color to your fall garden with the help of cool-season annuals. Plant pansies, sweet alyssum, ornamental cabbage and kale in the garden or containers for a colorful finale to the season. Planting in containers – especially when they’re placed on stools or ladders at waist level – is an easy way to avoid excessive bending and kneeling, which can aggravate back and knee pain.

    You can also double your gardening pleasure by growing cool wave and other winter hardy pansies. These will brighten your fall garden, survive winter and add color to your spring garden as the bulbs begin peeking through the soil. Be sure to use a padded kneeler or knee pad when planting, and avoid kneeling on both knees whenever possible. Your knees will thank you at the end of the day.

  2. Take advantage of fall plant sales and add a few trees, shrubs and perennials to your landscape. The soil is warm and the air is cool, making it less stressful for you and the plants. Once your plants are in the ground, make sure to water them thoroughly and whenever the top few inches of soil are slightly moist but still crumble in your hand.

    And hydrate yourself, as well. Even though it’s cooler out, have a water bottle nearby; being dehydrated can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and even dizziness. To further help your body, reduce the strain on your muscles by using the proper tools when digging and planting. To avoid hand pain, for instance, look for tools with padded handles or take a DIY approach, bulking up the handles on your existing tools with a washcloth and tape.

  3. Tarp.smallProtect flowers and vegetables from frosty nights. The first few fall frosts are often followed by warm, sunny weather during which you can enjoy the beautiful flowers and produce from your garden. Floating row covers sold as ReeMay, Harvest Guard and Garden Fabric allow air, light and water through while protecting plants down to 24 degrees. This means you can leave your plants covered, day and night, as long as needed.
     
  4. Bring a few annuals indoors. You can move potted plants into a sunny window or start new plants from cuttings. I prefer the latter, since you can wash off any unwanted pests and the resulting smaller plants take up less window space. First, start by taking 4- to 6-inch cuttings from your favorite annuals such as coleus, geranium or annual vinca. Then root the cuttings in moist vermiculite or a well-drained potting mix. Once rooted, move them to a small container filled with potting mix. Just like outside, you can easily reduce pain by placing indoor potted plants on a waist-height table, stool or ladder, or by employing a homemade or store-bought wall garden.

    You can grow your new plant in either a sunny window or under artificial lights. Be sure to water it thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. With proper care and enough light, you will be enjoying a few flowers over the winter.
     
  5. Harvest and preserve some herbs for added flavor in your winter meals. Use garden scissors or pruners when harvesting them. Rinse the herbs, remove any damaged or dried leaves, bundle, and hang upside down to dry. A warm, dry, airy place out of direct sunlight works best. Store dried herbs in airtight containers in a cool, dark location. For pain-fighting properties, consider drying some mint. It’s a great ingredient to add to your tea in fall and winter, and can reduce inflammation and relieve general aches and pains.

    As you garden your way through fall, you’ll not only improve the beauty of your landscape, but also your emotional and physical wellbeing. Enjoy!

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