Whether your home is blessed with temperate winters or graced with blankets of snow, nothing signals the holiday spirit like a bright and cheerful snowman. If you’d like to adorn your house with a snowman who outlasts the thaw and can be counted upon to return year after year, then you’ll want to choose a medium more durable than snow.
Using terra cotta planters, we show you how to construct an ideal winter doorman for your porch or patio. Decorate your snowman in classic style, as we’ve done here, or use these instructions as a template for letting your creativity run wild.
Come autumn, we’ll be harvesting apples, potatoes, and fat, orange pumpkins for decorations and pies. But don’t let the drop in the temperatures trick you into giving up on gardening. There are many ways to extend your bounty, so you can grow and preserve your foods and flowers into the fall and early winter. We call this stretch gardening.
First, you need the right tools and techniques. Use our primer, below, to get started. Then check out the articles and projects in our stretch gardening series to learn how to build a cold frame, turn pressed flowers into beautiful, inexpensive gifts, and much more. We’ll help you make the most of your garden until the earth warms up again in spring.
Our definition of tools is broad; it includes materials and structures that protect plants from frost and low temperatures.
You don’t need all the items on our list, of course. Choose the ones that will help you accomplish your goals, whether you want to keep growing fresh vegetables and flowers for the table, or “put up” foods to enjoy during the coldest months of the year–or both.
- Cold frames – These structures, topped by glass or plastic and filled with good soil, let you grow plants using the sun’s heat for warmth.
You’re in luck if you happen to have a shed with a tin roof on it; when you hear the plunk, plunk of acorns, you know cooler weather is on the way. In many parts of the country, that means a killing frost isn’t far behind. While the squirrels scramble to stash the nuts, the rest of us need to bring in any flowers and vegetables we want to save.
Autumn is a great time to save seeds from your garden, but don’t bother with the seeds of hybrid plants. Most hybrid seeds are sterile, or they won’t grow true-to-type, which simply means they won’t produce plants that look like the one you started with.
Heirloom seeds are another story.
Heirlooms are plants that have been around for fifty years or more, and they’re open pollinated—that is, their seeds produce baby plants that look like the parent. Most have adapted over time to whatever climate and soil they’ve been grown in, so they’re unusually resistant to pests and diseases.
(Hybrids are great, too; where would we be without tomatoes bred to resist diseases? Diversity is good for the garden, just as it is elsewhere in life.)
Besides being easy to grow, many heirloom flowers have rich perfumes. Heirloom fruits and vegetables usually taste better than hybrids created to store on supermarket shelves. Even their names evoke their wonderful traits: ‘Fragrant Delight’ heliotropes, ‘Ice Cream’ watermelons, and ‘Golden Sweet’ snow peas.
- 1 head broccoli (about 1 pound), broken into 1-inch florets, stalks peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), broken into florets
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 lemons, thinly sliced
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 475°F. On two rimmed baking sheets, toss broccoli and cauliflower with oil, garlic, and lemons; season with salt and pepper. Roast until vegetables are browned and tender, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating sheets from top to bottom and tossing vegetables once halfway through.
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Your National Gardening To-Do List for October 2013:
By now, many of us are cleaning up our gardens and raking autumn leaves. The cooler temperatures make it a good time to plant trees, shrubs, spring flowering bulbs, rhubarb and garlic. For seasonal color, add pansies, violas, mums, and ornamental kale to containers, beds, and borders. It’s also time to prepare beds for spring planting. Test your soil to see if it needs amendments; then pull weeds and incorporate compost, lime, and/or manure, as indicated by the test results. Top off the garden with mulch.
- Store garden chemicals and sprays in a location that won’t go below 40 degrees F.
- Mow the grass if it’s still growing. Use a mulching blade to shred fallen leaves.
- Prune weak or diseased branches before storms knock them down, or call a professional for help.
- Cover ponds with netting to keep out fallen leaves.
- Clean and store ceramic or terracotta pots.
Our relationship with our garden can be fickle.
It often comes down to season. Warmth. Sun.
We weather the blazing heat of summer alongside our gardens, lovingly tending to our plants, vegetables and flowers. But things change when the weather turns cool. We retreat indoors, leaving most of our plants to nap away the winter, biding their time until spring.
(Are you a fair-weather gardener?)
That can be a frustrating circumstance, not least of all since we could sometimes use a little help from our gardens. Wouldn’t it be nice to have live ornamentals to give as holiday gifts, or to enjoy home-grown fruits and vegetables during the dead of winter?
Here at the Garden Club, we decided to do something about winter withdrawal. This year we are going to arm you with a way to keep your green thumb active… all throughout the cool season. Though we will be rolling out much more in the months to come, here are some articles already live and ready for you to dive into!
As you can see, “Stretch Gardening” is a set of projects and best practices for keeping an active garden, even into the cold months when tending a traditional garden is impractical. We call it stretch gardening, and we’re inviting everyone who loves to garden to join in.
With a ceramic pot and a few aquatic plants, it’s easy to make a pretty water bowl as a centerpiece for a table, deck or patio. You can re-create our water bowl with approximately $40 of materials in about an hour. Your serene centerpiece will add beauty to your garden throughout the season.
To make a water bowl, begin by choosing a container you like.
If it has drainage holes, use Great Stuff, a spray-on foam sealant, to plug them. Let the sealant dry overnight, or for 24 hours.