Agggh. This is such a difficult time for an Alaska garden writer — not to mention an Alaska gardener.
We are at the end of the season and it is just too darn difficult to predict just when the real end of it is here. And when you write a column several days in advance, that makes it even tougher. So, I have to go to the Garden Writers Rule Book.
That book says there are two safe, but important topics. The first is fall cleanup and the second is the need for winter lights. I have written every year about both. That won't stop me from doing so again.
First, the cleanup. My goals are to try to make things easier next spring, prevent any equipment from getting damaged and, of course, make the place look good. Keep these in mind and you will know what to do. Here are a few reminders:
Outdoor faucets freeze in the winter and this can cause pipes to burst. Leaving hoses and attachments on these faucets increases the chances. Remove them, and figure out if you have to shut the water off indoors. Drain hoses and you can store them outside without fear water will expand and split the hoses during the winter.
Leaves are falling and covering up those sprinklers, rakes and whatnot that you have laying around. Get 'em while you can find them. Oil wooden handles and hang things up. If you have an outdoor shed, make sure it is reinforced so it can handle heavy snow on its roof.
If you want, you can cut back the canes that produced raspberries this year and trim the rest so they are about 3 feet tall. Cover strawberry beds. In fact, mulch belongs on all your plant beds and around trees and shrubs.
Use leaves for beds growing things that stay in the ground more than a year, and grass clippings for the annual and vegetable gardens. A 1/4- to half-inch sprinkling of compost on beds now will help feed and populate microbes and enrich the beds for next spring
Mark driveways and walks so you know where to pile snow, if we get any.
And, of course, if it hasn't frosted yet, take cuttings and move appropriate plants indoors. Beware of hitchhikers.
As for those indoor lights I annually insist readers get, now is the time to set up your system. You can use it all winter to sustain your houseplants and, if you want, grow some stuff from seed. And, of course, it will be there next spring when it is time to start seeds for the summer.
Finally, if you are interested in growing your own cannabis, which I believe will become the new "tomato" for home gardeners as it is an easy and interesting plant to grow, a light system will be absolutely necessary.
Over the years things have changed a lot. I used to tell folks that two bulb shop fixtures with one cool and one warm fluorescent bulb was the way to go. But now there are many new kinds of lights, including some very, very cool (literally and figuratively) LED fixtures. And you can find plant wavelength bulbs that will fit any of your existing fixtures, as well.
There are several places throughout the state that carry indoor lighting. We used to call these hydroponics shops and there was only one or two. There are more now and they carry soil-based products, too, so hydroponics is a misnomer. If you are at all interested in setting up a modern, efficient and inexpensive indoor growing system, you need to go to one of these stores and look around. You will be amazed and probably thrilled it is going to be so easy to set up a system, be it soil- or water-based.
Perhaps you will even be so inspired you will finally set up an entire grow-room. I have a friend who specializes in design, electrical and plumbing of such rooms and he showed me some of the newer equipment for controlling lights as well as lights themselves. Simply amazing.
Given that we spend nine months gardening indoors, you would think everyone would want to turn a closet into a hi-tech grow-room that can produce vegetables, herbs (including cannabis) and cut flowers using existing wiring.
Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar
Edible flowers lecture: Alaska Botanical Garden and 49 Writers present "Sprinkle flowers on your plate!" a lecture about edible flowers from Kitty Morse, author of "Edible Flowers: A Kitchen Companion with Recipes," from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Sept. 28, at the BP Energy Center. Find more information, and a link to purchase tickets, at alaskabg.org/abg-49-writers-presents-kitty-morse/.
Clean bird feeders: Bears are still up and it is too early to put out food, but not too early to clean your feeders. You should use a dilute solution of bleach or a similar cleaner.