Everyday Gardener: End of the season roundup

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November 13, 2013
By: Meleah Maynard
Meleah Maynard

This is my last column of the season, which is always a little sad to write, but I’ll be back early next spring. In the meantime, please feel free to get in touch via my blog (www.everydaygardener.com) if you have any gardening questions or suggestions for future topics that you’d like me to tackle. For this column, I’ve got several things to talk about. Let’s start with seed sharing.

I’d like to give a big shout out to everyone who has been participating in the Little Free Seed Library so far. If you haven’t seen the last couple of columns, I started a seed sharing space a couple of months back on the top shelf of the Little Free Library box on the boulevard outside my house. Lots and lots of people have come by to get seeds so far, and many have been contributing seeds to share, too. Thank you all for joining in!

If you’re interested in stopping by to browse or share seeds, you’ll find our brightly painted Little Free Library on the boulevard at my house on the corner of 45th Street and Washburn Ave. South. Seeds will be available until the first week in December. After that, I’ll pack them up and store them in a cool, dry place that won’t suffer so many temperature fluctuations until spring when the seed sharing library will be back in action. 

All together now

Talk of community building can often be kind of barfy and unrealistic. But this seed sharing thing has definitely made me feel more warm and fuzzy about groups of people coming together to make stuff happen. In fact, neighbors are a great place to start if you’re really interested in promoting local businesses and causes. Being outside gardening has definitely brought me closer to my neighbors, many of whom I talk to all the time as they walk by with their kids or dogs while I’m weeding and digging and planting.

One neighbor saved the day recently by fixing our broken lawn mower. Though we long ago dug up our lawn to plant gardens, we use the mower to mulch leaves in the fall and this year the darn thing wouldn’t start. Oesten, our neighbor, mentioned that he fixes small engines and sure enough, he took the mower home and for a small fee, got it running like new again. So in the interest of promoting community, let me tell you that he fixes snow blowers, chainsaws and other things too. You can reach him at 390-0815.

The scoop on holiday containers

As I said in my last column, I am not good at creating attractive outdoor containers, especially those with a holiday theme. But that may be changing after I took a class on the subject last week. The instructor was my friend, neighbor and fellow master gardener, Tom Wesely, and I want to share with you some of the tips he offered. For example, ceramic, cement and plastic containers have a tendency to crack in our frigid climate. So, how are you supposed to plant in them in the winter?

Well, you can usually prevent cracking by replacing existing soil in your containers with fresh potting soil straight from the bag. This works, Tom explained, because the fresh soil has not absorbed moisture like the existing soil has, so it won’t be as likely to expand and contract (potentially cracking the pot) as the temperature fluctuates. Alternately, just skip potting soil completely and jam the pot full of whatever it is you want to use in your arrangement. All that jamming will keep things in place the same way soil would. If you’re worried that a pot might tip over without soil inside, place a couple of bricks or large rocks on the bottom before arranging your evergreens and whatnot.

What you put in your containers depends on your own personal taste, of course. But Tom recommends using at least three different types of evergreens for good texture and contrast. He then adds things like dried eucalyptus; dogwood twigs; birch branches; dried berries; pine cones; cuttings from plants such as boxwood, holly and magnolia; and dried seed pods and flowers (hydrangeas are great for this purpose). 

Tom designed several containers during class and all of them were lovely. I was so inspired, I came home and filled my window box (which usually sits empty all winter) with a few evergreen branches and twigs that I bought at Menards and Trader Joe’s—both had very affordable container ingredients. And then, to make the design more me, I added in some lawn ornaments and driftwood and rocks from our yard. I may not win any prizes for the look, but I like it. Happy planting! And see you next year.  

Get more gardening tips at Meleah’s blog: www.everydaygardener.com