A Gardener’s Diary: There is lots to do before the winter break

The gardening season is coming to an end, so Jocelyne Sewell explains the things that gardeners can do before the snow flies

I finally got all the plants I wanted to overwinter into the house and didn’t have to get a bigger house. We had the last fig from the fig tree a couple of days ago. It finished ripening in the house. Next year I will have to transplant it to a bigger pot or even put it in the ground against the south side of the house. With some protection, it might survive our winters.

All the rain barrels are empty and stored for winter. It might be a bit early but I don’t want any water in them to freeze later and ruin them. It happened to one of my plastic garbage cans, the water froze and cracked the bottom.

I still have a lot of cleaning to do in the garden. The grasses I wait for early spring before I cut them down. Some perennials like the peonies and the phlox had some powdery mildew so I cleaned up the beds and didn’t put them in the compost. They will go in the recycling.

A plant or two of parsley, taken up from the garden and reset in a pot of good soil, will do well all winter if kept watered and in a sunny window of the kitchen. This is one herb whose appearance, odour and flavour are all welcome through the cold weather. Chives, garden sage and thyme for seasoning can also be maintained in this manner.

I transplanted the bulk of the Jerusalem artichokes in a very accessible spot. I will cover them with bags of leaves so I can dig some as required. We already had some with a mix of roasted vegetables. Very tasty. They are good also in stir-fry. I cannot taste any difference between the white or the red varieties but the white ones this year are a very nice size and are more uniform. I also think that they matured earlier, as they all bloomed, but the red ones still have their green leaves but no flower and smaller size of tubers.

I am not a rose person but I have a “Granada” that is still blooming strong. To me this is what a rose should smell like and look like. I don’t know how old it is as it was in the garden when we came. Next year I will try to take cuttings of it and will try the advice I found on the Internet as follows: if you have a weeping willow tree near by, gather about two cups of pencil-thin willow branches. Cut into one to three-inch lengths. Steep twigs in a half-gallon of boiling water overnight (tea) or use lukewarm water and let twigs soak for 24-48 hours. Before you place cuttings in soil, soak the ends overnight in some of this liquid. After cuttings are put in soil, water cuttings with this liquid when they require water. Refrigerate un-used liquid. With some plants, you may opt to root your cuttings right in the willow water. If you do this you will need to make a fresh batch for other cuttings.

I will keep on writing this column over winter. With the garden asleep, I will go through my books and pass on “gardening secrets” and advice that I will find. It will be more like do as I say and not as I do because many times, my best intentions are not always followed.

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Jocelyne Sewell is a longtime gardening enthusiast, member of Okanagan Gardens and Roses Club in Vernon and gardening columnist for The Morning Star, appearing ever other Wednesday.