Shawnee News-Star Sunday Oct. 29th 2017 Becky Emerson Carlberg Halloween is almost upon us. The end of autumn signaled the entrance into the coldest, darkest part of the year. The Celts began observing this day well over 2,000 years ago (the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.) It marked the end of all harvests [...]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday Oct. 29th 2017

Recognize Bar-B-Que Bob?

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Halloween is almost upon us. The end of autumn signaled the entrance into the coldest, darkest part of the year. The Celts began observing this day well over 2,000 years ago (the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.) It marked the end of all harvests and was called Samhain. It was believed the veil between the living and the dead became quite thin, allowing the spirits to surface at this time. More people died during the winter months, and to appease the spirits, hearth fires were extinguished and huge bonfires (bone-fires) were lit. The kin who had died the previous year or other sacrifices were put into the 'bone-fires' to be set free and appease the deities. When the bonfires burned down, the sacred hot coals were taken back to the homes to fires were re-kindled. When the bonfire ashes had cooled, they were spread on the fields to assure good crops the next year. It must have been a daunting and scary time right before bitter cold and snows descended into Europe.

Color at the Japanese Tea House, Wheaton Park, Maryland

The ancients were into sustainable farming and replenishment of the soil. If you desire to spread ashes over the garden, first have a soil test done to check the nutrient levels of your garden soil. Use wood ashes from your winter fires. Wood ash is high in calcium, potassium, contains many micronutrients, but does increase the pH level.

As burned the bonfires, so it goes with gardeners as winter approaches. What to do, what to sacrifice, what to save and where to put it. Last winter we experienced one super cold night that dropped to nearly zero degrees Fahrenheit. Many of the hardiest of plants were wiped out that single night. Plan for that most severe of freezing temperatures and the plants will better survive.

Plants may be overwintered many different ways. Save the seeds, make cuttings, protect outdoor plants with insulating material, place potted plants inside cold frames or temporarily move to a temperate climate in your house or a greenhouse. If you live in an area blessed with an abundance of deer, moving plants may be one way to avoid the deer munching problem.

17 Tips for Overwintering plants:

1. Chili peppers and garlic can be braided or tied together in ristras (strings of drying veggies). As the plants dry and cure, they add color and decoration to your garage, house, fence or patio. Create a cheerful wreath of red peppers and hang on a door.

2. Yellow or red tropical milkweed (Asclepias currasavica) must be overwintered indoors as a plant; they are supersensitive to cold. Collect seed pods as they crack open. These milkweed seeds readily germinate in a warm place. Start seeds indoors 2 months before final frost.

3. Pile extra leaves and grass clippings around plants. Do no cut back outdoor plants until spring. Many have hollow stems that hold water or house bees and other beneficials. Try to leave foliage. Use a drop of Elmer's glue to seal the end. This is useful as well for rose stems after pruning in the spring.

4. Bubble wrap around pots works as a good insulator. Bales of hay around trees trap air layers. Bury pots into ground to assure soil insulating protection.

5. If roses do not survive winter where they are planted, try planting new or moving existing roses to a slight slope facing southeast with good sun exposure.

6. Two hours of compact fluorescent light (CFLs) equals one hour of sunlight. Put the artificial light as close to plants as possible. Idea: Set up table and suspend a CFL shop light; use timer as the lights need to be on 10 to 12 hours if plants are in a dark area.

7. Geranium overwintering: Remove plant from pot and gently shake soil out of the roots. Put into a paper sack and hang in a cool area or well house. Take down the plant occasionally, check to see if plant is beginning to shrivel. If so, place roots in water for several hours, then put back into paper sack and re-hang.

8. In the 1700's, tan pits provided heat for pineapples. A large cold frame was lined with pebbles on the bottom, a layer of horse manure was put on the pebbles and that was topped by a layer of Tanner's bark (oak bark soaked in water usually used in tanning of leather; oak bark and acorns contain tannins.) The pots were dug into the media. The Tanner's bark slowly fermented producing a steady 80 degree heat for 2 months or more if stirred occasionally. Using only manure will cause higher temperatures, but the retainer cools down more rapidly. This does work.

Deer at Home

9. Cut back foliage before bringing in pots.

10. Hose down your plants before bringing inside.

11. Spray and water plants with mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide (3%). The hydrogen peroxide adds extra oxygen into the soil and decimates fungus gnat eggs and other possible insects and larvae. Ratio: 1 cup water to 1 teaspoons hydrogen peroxide; 1 gallon water to cup hydrogen peroxide. If plants look sickly or have a fungus problem: 1 gallon water to 1 cup hydrogen peroxide. Mix and apply immediately before bringing indoors if possible.

12. Put saucer under each pot. Don't overwater as excess water encourages development of fungi and other diseases. Water when soil surface is dry.

13. Adequate lighting: Natural window or CFL (Compact fluorescent light bulbs.) 100 watts (the gardener uses two 40 watt bulbs in a ceiling fixture and a 25 watt in a lamp; whatever arrangement works for you, but the plants need good light distribution and at least 10 hours of light each day. Expect leaf drop even if it is a brightly lit room.

14. Keep thermostat at 65 degrees F.

15. Good air circulation. Use a small oscillating fan, especially when plants are first brought in. Counters bug problems and microclimate situations that foster things you don't want.

16. Pest control. Isopropyl alcohol on plant leaves and stems will make whiteflies, spider mites and other pests unhappy.

17. Good luck!

Jack Standing Guard