KUSA - All good things come to an end but it's worth preserving the garden's beauty and productivity as long as possible. It takes just a small effort to protect patio plants and crops.
Frost cloths and sheets can be used to cover plants when temperatures drop below freezing. Cover flowers and late crops of spinach, lettuce and cabbage as necessary. They can take a light frost but, if covered, can withstand a hard freeze.
For house plants living outside, summer vacation is nearly over. Bring them inside. This includes plants such as mother-in-law's-tongue, spider plant, umbrella tree, Swedish ivy and many others. Provide them with bright, indirect light. They will prosper with lower light levels since they evolved beneath trees. Save the sunniest windows for plants that you may wish to save over the winter that have higher light requirements.
Many patio plants can be saved inside. You can also take cuttings from them, or both. Cuttings can easily be rooted in jars of water on the windowsill. Take a six to eight inch cutting and strip off the lower leaves. New roots will form in the water at the leaf nodes (where you stripped off the leaves). After the cuttings have lots of roots, pot the cuttings individually in fresh potting soil and keep them growing on the windowsill or under lights throughout the winter. The easiest plants to root this way are geraniums, coleus, bloodleaf and sweet potato vine.
Avoid doing things that can actually harm your garden. Certainly pull and compost annuals and vegetables after they have frosted, but don't cut back perennials, trees, roses or other shrubs. Pruning stimulates new growth; new growth is particularly vulnerable to winter kill.
Spring-flowering bulbs are planted in fall but so are fall-flowering bulbs. These include autumn crocus, saffron crocus and colchicums. Colchicum autumnale, commonly called meadow saffron, is a lovely fall bloomer. Native to high alpine meadows of Europe, this bulb has an unusual life cycle. Its leaves are produced in spring and then fade away. In October, the pretty pink or white flowers spring from the earth unaccompanied by leaves. The single flowers look like big, plump crocus. The double form has many more petals and is called 'Waterlily' for this reason. It does resemble a pink waterlily and is one of the prettiest fall flowers. Colchicum bulbs are available at nurseries now and should be planted in a sunny or partially sunny spot as soon as possible.
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