The Weekly Gardener 1


In Other Words

The End of the Gardening Year


Today it snowed. It's not the first snow of the year, but it is the kind that looks like it means it. An unpleasant snow, angry and wind driven, with drifts that blast your face with a shower of icy pellets.

Thankfully I managed to finish all my gardening chores, not a moment too soon, and though the landscape may be a frozen field going into year's end, it will be a neat and tidy one.

The bulbs arrived while the weather was still warm, so I planted them. The leaves have been raked and picked up, the vegetable garden is all cleaned up, the trellises and pots are stored safely in the shed, I put away the hoses so they won't freeze, every task is finished and I'm miserable: there will be no gardening until March, nothing but loathsome, dreary, cold and mucky days for months!

Planning? What planning? What is there to plan, how the foliage is going to emerge from the ground when the weather turns? The garden is already designed, if one can call the random mish-mash of perennials that happened over time design, it's mostly maintenance now.

One always hears about the advantages an established perennial garden offers, and I never thought I'd arrive to the conclusion that one of them, and the most often mentioned, was going to drive me to distress: they are self-sufficient. What am I for then?

Anyway, that's next year's problem, for now I'll try to find a cozy place where I can completely ignore mother nature until spring. God I hate winter!


Gardens in Jars


Terraria seem to have come back in fashion, during my last trip to the plant nursery I've seen containers of all shapes and sizes ready to be filled with live plants and sealed. I've had a terrarium for ages, I don't even remember how many years, so I feel like I can shed some wisdom on what makes them tick.

If you are going to start one, use a large container and give the plants plenty of room to breathe, they grow a lot faster and larger than you anticipate. Don't feed the beast! The idea is to keep growth contained and any amount of fertilizer will spur it out of control.

A classic terrarium is sealed, a self-sufficient ecosystem that must not be exposed to outside influences once closed. If yours is set up so that it can be opened, it will require periodic maintenance to remove the debris and trim the excessive growth. Water every six months or so. If you are not sure whether it needs water or not, err on the side of dry; waterlogged dirt in a sealed jar is just asking for trouble - mold, mildew and root rot.

It needs indirect but bright light for the most part of the day. The plants must be adapted to a tropical environment, otherwise they won't survive. The air in the jar is going to be still, much warmer than the room it's in, and very humid. Those who have kept a terrarium for a while like to talk about how its glass fogs up in the morning as a result of plants' night respiration, an endearing image for sure, but a very telling one as far as moisture is concerned. The only exception to this rule is if you set up a desert environment for cacti, not an easy thing to do, because you can't control the air humidity in a closed jar.

Keep in mind that the terrarium itself is the living entity you are tending to, it is not just a container for individual plants, and it must be nurtured and kept healthy as a whole in the same way you would a fish tank or a bee hive.