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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #307 - The late planted Autumn Crocus are supplying November flowers.
November 24, 2017

Autumn Crocus blooming in mid November are easily my favourite flower at this time of year. They also happen to be the only flower so that makes it easy to choose a favourite. These are new bulbs this year that were planted about 2 - 3 weeks ago and every sunny day a few more of them emerge and brighten the short dark days of Autumn. These are Crocus speciosus and there are other colours available. Its foliage appears in the spring and looks a bit like having a lot of grass growing in your beds. Crocus sativus is another fall bloomer and it is famous for its brilliant stamens which are harvested to make Saffron. Once you have grown them and tried to pick a quantity of their stamens you quickly understand why Saffron is such and expensive spice. They are not quite as hardy and that’s why I usually grow C. speciosus. I have many of them blooming all over the back yard and I haven’t put any new bulbs out there for several years. They seed themselves and the squirrels relocate them so that they appear in odd places. It will be interesting next fall to see if any of them push up through this fall’s new sod. That sod is looking fresh and green and is warming the heart of this gardener who used to believe that grass was a waste of space. How our perceptions change as the years fly by.

In gardening, as in life, things seem to have to be done in a certain order to make it all work. The gardens need to be cleaned up and that produces a lot of material for the compost box. The compost box is full and needs to be turned over into the other compost box. It still has some viable compost in it that needs to be spread on the garden. This year it is going where the Potatoes and Dahlias were growing. The Dahlias have just recently been knocked down by the quite late frost and so they must be dug up as the first step in this chain of events. It is so late in the year that there are very few sunny warm hours during the day and most nights if freezes. That means the Dahlia tubers are occupying space in the solarium in order to get the heat to dry and cure them. The Assistant Gardener loves it when I bring the blooms from the Dahlias into the house all summer but she doesn’t seem to be as keen about the buckets of soil covered tubers sitting around the solarium. They will make it to their winter bed of shredded paper in the basement in a few days as soon as the soil on them has dried enough to be brushed off. These are large clumps of tubers and they will be too big to start in pots next spring and that makes me think about my friend Ellen Zachos and her book Backyard Foraging where she provides lots of details on eating those fat Dahlia tubers. This may be the year I actually try it.

When I emptied the finished compost bin, I looked carefully inside and observed the lovely patterns that the decomposing wood has created. As interesting as the patterns are I did start to wonder how much longer this box would actually hold together. Is this the year that rebuilding the compost boxes should be added to that chain of events. NO! It’s already late November and we have spent so much time and energy on the great garden renovation that I’m just going to momentarily appreciate those intricate patterns and then shovel all the compost from the other box into this one and hope that it holds together for another year. I have now shoveled it in and cleaned much of the garden and partly filled the first box and so far everything seems to be holding together. Soon it will all freeze and then I don’t have to worry about those boxes until next spring. Procrastination is my friend.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. To ask a question just “reply” to this ezine. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Carol Asks? When you made your sub irrigation boxes which glue did you use to glue those pipes to the bottom of the screen? I tried different types but they didn't hold.

Ken Answers! I haven't found one that holds either. I just place them carefully in the box and gently lay the screen on top.

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