We had our first freeze in Olympia a few days ago. It was later than predicted, and we’ve been watching the forecast carefully to plan the great plant migration of fall 2023. Every winter, I bring in an expanding cast of plant characters to shelter from the cold. I want to bring them all in, but that doesn’t work well. It’s a workout hauling plants, and now the art room, the sunroom and the garage all have jungle vibes. You have to duck under the red-veined mallow to get through the sunroom door.
This year, I added some pepper plants and ground cherries to the indoor transport. Both are tender perennials, and the hope is that a larger plant will give you a jumpstart next year. The extra bump helps in a short-season garden like ours. Some plants do very well: fuchsias, tigridia, Texas red salvia and my mystery plant that looks like rhubarb are regulars in my winter indoor nursery. Some plants don’t do well–I’ve tried overwintering peppers in the past without success.
Herbs have been a mixed bag. This fall, I have a group of herbs that I softened up before moving them in permanently. Softening up is the opposite of the hardening-off plants need in the spring to become accustomed to being outdoors after being raised in a temperature-controlled environment. As with all my gardening exploits, it’s all an experiment.
Sometimes, things go wrong
I mention this because people are very hard on themselves when it comes to plants. Even experienced gardeners do the wrong thing. Plants don’t always make it. I have a lot of plants, and I don’t do things perfectly, especially when I am short on time. I overwatered my phalaenopsis, and it’s never looked better. My dracena marginata, on the other hand, looks terrible. I accidentally overwatered it before going away for a week, and it did not appreciate that. Poor thing. It just goes to show you that despite your efforts, things go wrong. When stuff like this happens, I count my spider plants. Those darn things do not care. They keep going and multiply beyond your wildest imaginings.
Does anyone need a spider plant? Or ten? Twenty?
The good, the bad and the so-so
The champions of the garden this year were the Sugar Rush Peach peppers and the ground cherries. The dahlias were amazing, as were the Black-Eyed Susan vine and the Texas red salvia. Once we found just the right spot for the cucamelon, it was happy. We have lots of mint and lots of garlic. I diversified my herb collection. The basil was decent. Raspberries are always a solid performer and demand so little. The kale keeps going in all seasons. The lemon balm has taken over. (I started with one 4-inch pot purchased at a community plant sale four years ago.) The oregano was S-L-O-W to get going but surprised us at the end. The roses looked great this year. The rose-scented geranium, which started as a 4-inch plant, is now a full-on shrub.
I have not been able to repeat my year-one cucumber success. We had just a few this year. The thyme was a complete failure, but not due to a lack of trying. The jalapenos could keep up with their peach cousins. I can’t seem to grow bell peppers.
We had some tomatoes but nothing to brag about. Many never turned red, so we are enjoying an end-of-the-season tradition, a green tomato cake. Cherry tomatoes are usually recommended as foolproof, but I have little to show for my efforts. But I can’t bring myself to give up. Tomatoes are like the bad boyfriend that I can’t quit. I keep looking for ways to be successful in my shady garden. Next year!