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Knock, knock

By Staff | Dec 5, 2019

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad we don’t have weather like they’re having up North? So, we’re going to get a little chilly for us, but it beats the northern alternative.

There’s no place like home for the holidays, wherever we may live.

We can adjust to sweater, jacket or coat weather as we carry on with our living, going from Thanksgiving holiday, to Christmas, to New Year’s. This is a really busy time of year, so much to do and so little time to do it. This is the time made for our cool weather crops, salad crops like lettuce, cabbage, kale, broccoli and radishes. At least the weeds aren’t outdoing us now.

Did you cut your live tree for Christmas yet? My older grandson and his wife visited a tree farm that served wine from its vineyards. She observed, as they let them use a chain saw, “Where else could you drink a glass of wine and handle a chain saw at the same time?” They survived nicely. The tree is now up in their home. Oh, the memories their three young children will have.

Good news, the weather is cool enough to garden comfortably, the hurricane season ended, Jim Cantore is nowhere in sight and the bad news is the humidity is lower, so keep an eye on watering as needed. In case of an unusual blast of really cold air, your garden is less susceptible to frost damage when the ground is wet, water the night before a hard freeze. Ice formed on the plants will protect them from being severely damaged because it insulates them. It has happened, but rarely.

If it does happen, move the mulch away from the plant’s base to create a ground warmth to radiate upwards helps. Put sheets or blankets over them, weighted papers or cardboard boxes. No plastic! It conducts the freezing. Remember to take them off when the sun comes out. Some people will run sprinklers all night long during freezes. This happens so rarely here, but it did in 1961, 1977, 1983 and 1985.

The future weather forecast doesn’t have any cold temperature projections. I’ve been freezing and bundling up this week, but the future looks like our topical paradise is returning. Been here a long time. When I first arrived, this was nothing. Somehow my blood has thinned as they say, and right now I’m not comfortable.

Winter officially arrives on Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice. Having grown up in the North, I know what winter is, and you can’t fool me with this tropical paradise atmosphere. Nothing beats a roaring campfire, but fires cause problems, so they are discouraged.

For growing vegetables and flowers, this is the season. Harvesting the fruits of our previous labors happily fulfills us. We can now start planting beans, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, cucumbers, endive, escarole, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard greens, onion sets, parsley, peas, peppers, rutabagas, spinach, squash, swiss chard and most any vegetables we desire. Herbs, go for them, also cool season bulbs and flowers.

We have Christmas planning and arranging to do. Since Thanksgiving, this is hot cocoa, mulled cider and family time emphasized all through into the New Year. What a lovely way to end our year. Then it is time to turn over a new leaf, time to make new resolutions for how we hope to behave during this new year. I don’t mean to be pushing the old year out just yet. There’s time to do more, to compress and squeeze out living it up, enjoying the good life.

Be careful of the pests that want to beat you to harvesting your crops. They do slow down a bit with cool weather, but they are ever present, waiting to enjoy the fruits of your labors. Remember, if you spray insecticides, you will have to eat that too, so don’t do it unless it’s necessary and even then, choose more natural ways to win the battle, like Bacillus thuringiensis, (Bt) as well as beneficial nematodes. Planting stinky French marigolds around the garden seems to deter wandering pests.

In 30 more years, we will need to find enough food to feed 10 billion people. Food production will need to increase by 70% to meet this demand without using more land. It is estimated up to 40% of global crop yields are lost each year to plant pests and diseases. We are battling plant pests and diseases on a planet with limited resources, it is essential to grow food in a sustainable way without harming the soil and waterways. I’ve seen plants growing up walls, on rooftops, anywhere soil can be laid.

If you like to travel to see a holly, jolly Christmas, try the Punta Gorda Garden Club’s 25th annual Holly Days tour, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. You buy your ticket to see four homes in the Punta Gorda Historic District as well as the First United Methodist Church, where you start and you buy your ticket there. It supports their local, state and national projects. They decorate for the holidays in teams four local homes using only fresh and dried natural material. If you get there early, there will be fresh poinsettias for sale at the church. Ideas galore as well as having free cookies and punch made by the club’s members.

Happy holidays!

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.