We’ve had an unforgettable summer – but soon our garden soil will be cold and wet. Before long, frost will arrive. That’s why it’s time to bring summer-flowering bulbs and houseplants, houseplants and heat-loving vegetables into shelter for the winter.
For fresh eating, extra tomatoes do well on windowsills where we can keep an eye on them and use those that are most ready. Sunny windows are best, but even in shady windows green tomatoes turn red anyway.
Tomatoes can also be frozen whole just as they come off the vine. Defrosting is simple. Under hot, running water, the skins slip right off while the frozen interiors remain easy to grasp.
By the end of October, it’s time to take in the last of the squash. For smaller ones, windowsill storage can be useful: most look attractive and since they’re in plain view, it’s easy to use the failing ones first.
Heritage squash were selected in the past partly for size and keeping ability. Today, this is a mixed blessing. Their hard, waxy and protective skin gets even harder as they age. Cutting them up can become a challenge. A cleaver works if it’s wielded by a strong person. Sometimes a sharp wood axe works better.
It’s also time to bring in Christmas cactus. Any that stood at ground level need checking for insects and slugs. Those that hung on trees are more likely to have issues with spiders and bird droppings. A shady, cool windowsill is the best spot for them.
Gladiolas and acidanthera should be lifted now and the foliage trimmed off. Once the big corms are dried, they can be stored in paper bags or cardboard boxes in a frost-free spot. Most people discard the little cormlets that cluster around the roots but if they’re saved, these little corms can be grown on to flower in a few years.
It’s also time to bring in dahlias. The old stem can be removed and the soil clinging to the tubers brushed away. Some gardeners hose it off with water, others don’t. The tubers need to be thoroughly dry before being stored.
This can be in a cardboard box filled with peat or vermiculite. But crumbled newspaper also works well. If you want to split dahlias it’s safer to do it in spring.
Storage can be similar for begonias and canna lilies.
Geraniums should have the soil reduced and some of the long roots removed. Branches can be cut back to the basic framework and some of these may be used for cuttings. Several plants can be kept together in a community pot in a cool, frost-free place. Keeping the soil fairly dry enhances dormancy.
Callas also need storage in a cool place. They can also be kept together in one large pot. They need a little water but the soil should be kept on the dry side.
Tender fuchsias also need digging up, cutting back and then kept dry and frost-free with very little watering. Some cultivars such as Dollar Princess and Santa Claus are almost hardy on the coast.
Further inland, semi-hardy fuchsias need to stay snug under a big pile of mulch, ferns or evergreen trimmings. This should be removed after frost season.
Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org