Stretching the Garden Season

The grocery store is selling kale.

Of course it is, but I wasn’t expecting to see it for sale outdoors in pots as well as indoors in the vegetable cooler.

It’s September and we are finally getting our summer warm spell. It’s time to enjoy fall blooming purple perennial asters (Aster ‘Professor Kippenburg’), the texture of billowing grasses and the hint of pink blooming hydrangeas. And if you get your garden tips from the grocery store, it’s time to freshen up your outdoor pots with kale or fall mums.

In a really good year, September is the shoulder month for gardening in Calgary. It’s the time to lose a few flagging annuals, but not quite cut-back season. With the pending possibility of PeeGee hydrangeas turning pink this month, and purple asters showing colour against bright red cotoneaster hedges, it is the season for pure pleasure. We wait all summer for this spectacular fall colour so why pay to have everything cut back in September just because someone said it is time for fall clean-up?

I say leave the cleanup for October. In September we should be enjoying our hammocks, replacing a few pooped petunias with kale and cutting the lawn for the last time. We can and should continue to water trees but the big work is behind us.

During September we have had snow and rain and ice. This won’t hurt the hearty fall plants. Kale, as a vegetable in the flower or vegetable garden is one of the many hearty plants that can take a frost without dying. Potatoes and carrots can also be left in the ground and dug around Thanksgiving. Tomatoes and marigolds however, aren’t so tough; any hint of frost and they will blacken and collapse. I picked a few ripe tomatoes this week, and am hedging my bets with promised warm weather, a few more will ripen (but I will be watching the weather, and picking them at midnight — if necessary — when frost threatens).

And that’s the key to September gardening. It’s time to watch the weather and react to it. Miracles do happen and we do get long luxurious falls in Calgary. Just don’t count on it. Balzer speaks and writes about gardening, Facebook’s and tweets @NoGuffGardener and blogs at www.gardenguru.net.

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