October- What's in Lisa's Garden?

Lisa Colburn


In My Garden (Zone 3-4)

Lisa Colburn
Lisa Colburn is a crazy gardener, great cook and author of The Maine Garden Journal.


October is the month when the smallest breeze gives us a shower of autumn leaves. Bonfires and pumpkins leaves sailing down. October is red and golden brown.

~Author unknown

My garden has been hit by light frosts several times now. Annuals and tender perennials in exposed areas have black, limp leaves yet they continue to bloom - a strategy to assure survival of the species. Flowers create seeds - the next generation. I've been savoring the last vestiges of summer by displaying the undamaged flowers in a simple Ikebana dish.

I've started Fall clean-up - outdoor housekeeping, really. First, I pulled up the sad-looking, frost-damaged pumpkin plants and heaped the vines and limp leaves in my compost bins. From only two pumpkin plants, I've harvested sixteen pumpkins! I've taken out all my pumpkin recipes to take advantage of the bounty. Of course everyone is familiar with pumpkin pie, but, pumpkin seems to be one of the new trendy ingredients found in everything from soup to beer! Roasted pumpkin is one of my new favorite veggies. Peel the pumpkin, remove the center stringy/seed area, cut the pumpkin into chunks, coat with olive oil and roast at 375° for 30 minutes. It's melt-in-your-mouth sweet.  

It's time to plant garlic. I use the largest bulbs to start next year's garlic and now is the time to plant. I separate the cloves and immediately plant them about four to six inches apart. After watering the bed well, I mulch with straw. The mulch not only helps the soil stay moist but it reduces the possibility that the cloves get heaved out of the ground by winter freeze/thaw cycles.  

One of my challenges with gardening in a cold climate is to continuously attempt a bit of "Zone Denial." I love succulents! I grow quite a few cold-hardy hens and chicks (Sempervivum) and sedums. But, I also try my hand at the beautiful, fleshy succulents that would be considered houseplants in Maine. A variety of interesting succulents have been flourishing in pots throughout my yard all summer. Most of them can usually take a little bit of cold and sometimes a light frost. But, to get them through the winter they must come inside. Unfortunately I don't get enough intense sunlight in my home. I have low-E windows - good for saving energy but bad for plants with intense light requirements. In my experience, succulents often get lanky and pale as they stretch to find light.  Luckily, my husband has a huge, window in his office without low-E glass. My succulents spend winter on vacation in a bright, sunny room and my husband gets kudos from people who see the display. We both win!




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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Some folks call them squirrels, but most gardeners call them "tree rats," as they can really damage bulbs in the garden. Squirrels are everywhere and the best you can do is to discourage them. Repellants work for a while, but a physical barrier is usually the best deterrent. Hardware cloth, a stiff, meshed wire screen with holes of various diameters — use half-inch or three-quarters — can be placed below ground over bulb plantings to protect them until they come up or it can be molded over pots to keep the varmints from digging in the soil.