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Low fall light reveals beauty of what's left in the garden

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog hydrangea fallI wish I knew the name of this lacecap hydrangea, it offers four season of interest. I love the subtle purple the flowers show at the end of the season. Photos by Doug Oster

The mornings are cold, the angle of the sun is low as winter looms in the distance.

The light plays with the colors of plants which brave the frigid nights hoping for a an Indian Summer.

This is the time to enjoy the final show of tender plants, perennials and shrubs. Once a few hard frosts coat the garden, they will be gone.

Walk the garden and enjoy what's left, dreaming of all the possibilities next season might hold.

blog mystic fall'Mystic Illusion' has become one of my favorite dahlias. I got it to use in my new book The Steel City Garden, but I have to save these tubers for next season. It's filled with yellow blooms held over black foliage.

blog doublicious late'Doublicous' hydrangea has an unusual flower form which I love. There's nothing subtle about the stunning dark red/purple blooms in fall.

blog coleus lightMy radio partner Jessica Walliser is taking cuttings from her coleas and growing them in water over the winter. Hmmm, that's a good idea.

blog mums in the lightSunrise over the mums. One problem in selecting the plants when they are budding, you might pick one which doesn't look like the other two!

blog salvia wedny stillSalvia 'Wendy's Wish' is a perennial plant hardy to zone 7. It blooms like an annual and I'll over winter it in my unheated greenhouse.

blog tithonia lateTithonia 'Torch' is a monster in the garden. This 1951 AAS winner can get 14 feet tall out in the sun. In my garden it flopped over and made this shrub of orange flowers nearly six feet high. Check out the planter on the left.

blog flopping hydrangeasMophead hydrangeas and texture and beauty to the fall garden. I'll probably remove the spent blooms and use them for dried arrangements.

 

 

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Late blooming bugbane is a perennial favorite

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog buggy 3Bugbane blooms late in the season and lights up the shade garden. Photos by Doug Oster

In a shady corner of a forgotten woodland garden, the white, candle like flowers of bugbane light up the bed.

blog buggy 1Bugbane is a native plant which is tough and beautiful.Cimicifuga is also known as bugbane or cohash and blooms in late summer to fall.

For some reason I'm always surprised by the flowers. I always forget the bugbane is there until it blooms. When it does, it's a star.

Since this plant is in an abandoned woodland bed I created years ago, it sits alone, is never watered but flowers reliably at the end of the season.

The plant is indestructible and thrives in dry shade, but can take sun too and will bloom even more prolifically with some morning sun. Some gardeners even plant it in full sun. It's going to need water if sited out in the daylight.

I love perennial plants like this. They come back year after year and aren't fussy.

There are many different varieties, some with flowers reaching seven feet tall.

This native plant is a great addition to the back of a perennial bed.

 

 

 

 

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Plant garlic now, how to get four harvests

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog garlic plant nowNothing can compare to garlic out of the garden. It's time to plant cloves now. Photo by Doug Oster"It would be a sad world without garlic," says my friend Johno Prascak. The Pittsburgh artist shares my obsession with garlic from the garden.

This is the perfect time to plant.

The first step is to start with the right garlic. It needs to be hardy for our areas, so farmer's markets, local nurseries and garlic farms will well you the right thing. Most of the grocery store garlic isn't hardy and is treated to retard sprouting.

I know for sure Hahn Nursery and Chapon's Greenhouse has garlic for sale. But you're favorite nursery might too.

Bob Zimmerman from Bobba-Mike's Gourmet Garlic Farm in Ohio told me he has lots of 'Music' left. That's my favorite variety, I've been ordering from Bob for over 15 years. The folks at Enon Valley Garlic have plenty of garlic left to order too. We've also become friends and they sell locally at the Sewickley, Ellwood City and Chippewa farmer's markets.

Once you have the right garlic, separate the head into cloves. Plant the biggest cloves three inches deep, six inches apart in good soil. I save the smaller cloves for the kitchen.

In my garden, I mulch the bed with straw. Now all we have to do is wait until spring. Garlic growers get four harvests, not just one.

The first happens early in the spring when the greens sprout. They can be harvested lightly, remember the greens provide energy for the bulbs. But those early fat little sprouts sharing their show with the crocus signal the start of the season are delicious.

In early June a seed head called a scape will emerge. It must be removed so the bulb can reach its potential. They are a delicacy, I use them for pesto or grill them.

I leave some of those scapes in the garden. Even though they are no longer attached to the plant, the seed head will continue to swell and grow little bulbets that are a clone of the bulb.

When more than 50 percent of the greens turn brown in July it's time to harvest the bulbs. They can be pulled out or gently coaxed with a garden fork. If you're growing bulbs to store all winter they will need to be cured in a warm dry place for three weeks. Garlic lasts longer if the stalks are left attached.

There's nothing like garlic from the garden, the fresh stuff is filled with oils that will make any recipe special. I even know a gardener who eats raw cloves out in his garden, guess who?

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Grow up! (off the ground)

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog grow upThis elevated garden planting box is filled with cool weather crops. I hope to harvest all winter. Photo by Doug Oster

After speaking at the Green Thumb Workshop in Meadville a few weeks ago I was introduced to the folks from Aaron's Homestead Products. They were showing off this elevated garden planting box.

They come in other colors but I had to have the pink, 10 percent of the price goes to cancer research and I love pink. Only a real man can garden in a bed that color.

There's a interesting back story to the creation of these elevated boxes. A family member who loved to garden got cancer, beat it, but had mobility issues. Now she could garden again in an elevated planting box.

The planter is shipped in a box and was very easy to put together. Although I have some fun spoofing the directions in the video below, once I built one, the second could be put together in less than half the time. I'm the most unhandy person on the planet, and found building the elevated bed pretty simple.

The quality of all the components is top notch. The metal parts are powder coated and all the hardware was top notch. The wood is cedar which is naturally rot resistant. Every piece matched up perfectly when building the bed.

This was perfect for my garden as I sited the bed right outside the kitchen door. I'm growing a variety of cool weather greens in the box. They will benefit from the protection the house provides and will be easy to pick at dinner time.

The planters come in two heights, 30 inches and 36.

I'm looking forward to harvesting for months and I'm excited about planting something new in there next spring. I've got the winter to think about what to put in there.

Check out the video for some more details on the planting box.

 

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Drying peppers for winter storage

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog super chiliThe dehydrator is filled with 'Super Chili' peppers. The house smells like hot peppers! Photo by Doug Oster

The garden was awash with peppers this season. 'Super Chili' was exceptionally prolific. It's a small hybrid hot pepper which will wake you up. I usually only use one of them when cooking.

Just handling the outside of the pepper can cause havoc if fingers encounter eyes or other tender areas of the body. The Scoville Scale rates peppers heat. 'Super Chili' is 40,000 to 50,000. As a reference jalapenos are around 2,500.

There were hundreds of green and red peppers harvested to make way for a planting of garlic.

In the past I'd put some in the fridge and the rest would be hung in the kitchen to dry. I'd lose about a quarter of them to rot.

I've become gardening friends with a security guard I see at one of my monthly Giant Eagle Market District appearances. He's another hot pepper lover.

He suggested putting all my peppers into a dehydrator.

What a brilliant idea, so I asked the boss (wife) to point me in the direction of the machine and filled it with hot peppers.

It will take a good day for the peppers to dry down. Then I'll crush them and store them in glass jar to be used as needed all winter.

I imagine enjoying homemade pizza in January sprinkled with 'Super Chili' flakes, a wonderful reminder of the summer garden. We all need a little wake up call in mid-winter and 'Super Chili' will certainly do the trick.

 

 

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