October - What's in Steve's Garden?


In My Garden (Zone 9-10)

Steve Asbell
Steve Asbell is an illustrator, the author of Plant by Numbers and blogger of The Rainforest Garden.

I’ve patiently waited all summer to take by five month-old son into the garden to hang out and help with little chores like weeding, but it’s been so hot and buggy that instead I’ve been cooped up in the air conditioning with him all day. 

Yesterday I was shocked to find that it was about room temperature outside, and shouted to my son “It’s gardening day! It’s gardening day!” I set him up with a comfy chair, grabbed a big pail for the weeds and started pulling them with a big smile before looking up to find an even bigger smile looking right back at me through the flowers and lemongrass. My baby was laughing at me! He might have thought it funny that I possessed the power to pull apart the world outside the window with my hands, or maybe my popping up through the flowers was like an elaborate game of peekaboo. Either way, we were two very happy gardeners. Neighbors driving by probably got a kick out of seeing a baby and his dad laughing out loud together.

Apart from the joys of gardening with my son, I really was excited to get out there and perform the menial, yet necessary task of pulling weeds because it’s finally getting cool enough to do so in relative comfort. If the weather is nice, does it really count as work? I don’t feel like I’ve gotten much work done out there this month, but then I look back at pictures of the garden and realize that I really have.

Last month I had to have a tree removed, right in the middle of the newly planted bromeliad garden. I moved as many plants as I could and watched as a team of workers carefully tried to dismantle the tree without damaging my plants. Then, while holding my son from the living room, I watched large branches plummet onto my garden, flattening trees, shrubs and perennials under their weight. Over the next few weeks I turned the remaining four foot tall stump into a mount for bromeliads, replanted the garden around its base and watched most of the other plants make a speedy recovery.

I’ve made progress elsewhere in the garden as well, and I’m just getting warmed up. I started with carving out a square patch of lawn by trimming the surrounding grass and weeds to the ground and smothering the survivors with sheets of cardboard. Then I planted a hedge of native Simpson stoppers along the fence to eventually form a privacy screen. 

This month I’ll plant vegetables between the shrubs while I wait for them to form a hedge, since the area is moist and gets plenty of sunlight. I already have roselle and okra plants growing in this area, but I can plant peas at their base to climb up the stems as they decline in the cold.

Where my back yard and side yard meet, I’ve installed a copper rain chain to replace my downspout and planted a small garden to catch the runoff and distract from the weedy work-in-progress in the side yard beyond. Out front I haven’t really done much other than my brief weed-pulling excursion, but the purple lantana, angelonia and melampodium have given me so many blooms that I haven’t had much need to interfere. 

This month I’ll probably replace the latter two warm-season annuals with alyssum and some tall and imposing greens like kale or collards, and while I’m at it, maybe I’ll expand the front yard’s flower bed so that I can fit in more vegetables. The weather will be nicer and I’ll have a little assistant to help, so why not? It is gardening day, after all.





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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Several options are available to overwinter a favorite geranium. The first is to cut it back and pot it up as a houseplant for the winter to replant outside in the spring. The second is to pull it up, brush off any clinging soil, and hang it upside down in a cool, humid basement until replanting in spring. Or, you can cut 4-inch lengths of new stem and put them in water or damp vermiculite to root. Once rooted, transfer to individual pots and treat as houseplants.