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October 2018, Week 4, End of Warm Growing Season Nears

It is hard to believe we're 2/3s of the way through October already. It seems like this whole month has gone by in a blur of cloudy, rainy, misty, drizzly and/or foggy weather, and some of you in more northern parts of OK already have had to deal with temperatures at/near freezing and/or frosts. Our warm growing season is drawing to a close fairly rapidly now even though statistically speaking, some of the folks in central through southern OK may have 2-4 more weeks of frost-free weather. It certainly doesn't feel like that on this cold October morning. I still expect our first frost and freeze down here will come early, but all I have left to gather from the garden is the last of the peppers so my final post-freeze day, when it comes, won't be very hectic. Technically, I still have a lot of green fall tomatoes, but with 17-18" of rain in the last 2 months, I don't expect their quality to be good even if they eventually are able to ripen. (A little more sunshine than 1 day every two weeks might help them ripen, if we ever could get that sunshine.)

As the warm growing season winds down, my thoughts turn more to planning for next year and to planting a few bulbs indoors to force blooms for the dreary, gray winter season. Yesterday I saw the first display of Amaryllis bulbs for sale in TSC. We had only stopped in to pick up hen scratch and deer corn on our way home from an all-day outing with the 4 year old granddaughter, so I didn't even stop and look at them because we all were tired and just wanted to get home but I'll probably buy a couple the next time we're in there. I have four Amaryllis plants left from last year sitting in a tray in the mudroom that I'm now watering and waking up from dormancy. Well, I'll take it back---one of us had been asleep in the car, so she was full of energy and started her Christmas planning early there in TSC, showing Tim and I a toy John Deere tractor and a plush stick horse in that she believes she "needs" Santa Claus to bring her for Christmas. Oh, and a large toy Semi truck/trailer hauling other vehicles on its flatbed trailer. She's a country girl at heart, so loves all kinds of farm girl things and TSC obliged her by already having in a lot of their Christmas merchandise. She was a little disappointed there were no live chicks at the feed store, but found a stuffed chicken that was fairly large---bigger than a banty hen but not as large as a full-sized standard hen, with three plastic eggs that, apparently, you put inside the chicken and then she 'lays' the eggs. Hmmm. Tim and I weren't as impressed with this toy as she was, but she's a chicken maniac so I guess I am not surprised. Maybe we'll do our Santa shopping at the feed store this year.

Most of the trees here still are really green and fairly confused by the weather, putting out new growth in the incessant rainfall, and not appearing ready to let any leaves change color and fall from the trees. While rainfall itself certainly shouldn't interfere in the leaves' ability to form abscission layers and begin to change color, heavy rainfall in autumn does seem to interfere in the process and slow it down somewhat. Only the persimmons and elms are showing fall color still, but I am seeing a little bit of reddish shades creeping into the sumac foliage now. The red oaks still show no sign that they even know they are red oaks so they clearly aren't ready for fall yet.

We still have a lot of monarchs here. There's lots of new ones emerging and we were able to watch some of them drying their wings in the morning sun at the playground yesterday, while some caterpillars (monarchs and others) prowled around nearby. I hope the monarchs hurry up and make their way south before it gets too late for them to make it to their overwintering location in Mexico. Usually by now the monarchs have left this area by now but they're late to leave this year. Perhaps they've been waiting for sunshine and warm weather, which they had yesterday and also will have today and tomorrow. I hope they get busy heading south.

I guess I'll take down the hummingbird feeders, as we haven't had any hummingbirds here for over two weeks now. I always leave them up through early to mid-October for any late migrants, but I don't think we'll see any more here now that the nights have been in the 40s. There's still blooms in the garden for them if they need them---mostly morning glories, a few red zinnias, dianthus, coral honeysuckle, canna, Texas hummingbird sage (in great profusion), salvia farinacea, three varieties of autumn sage, Purple Homestead verbena, lantana, daturas, hummingbird vine and trumpet creeper vine as well. With the exception of the dianthus, all of these will cease blooming soon. Hmmm. Maybe it finally is cool enough to buy and plant pansies to replace some of the warm-season flowers. I might look at the stores today to see what the flats of pansies look like.

We need to mow the yard today or tomorrow, if it is possible to mow high grass while puddles of water cover the ground. It will be interesting to attempt it, I suppose. We haven't been able to mow for about two weeks now and the yard is a jungle.

I miss the lovely green of spring and summer grasses, as they fade and give way to the dull green of autumn grasses and the approaching wheat- and straw-colored native grass colors of fall and winter. All the prairie grasses here that fill our pastures and roadsides are turning every shade of color imaginable, except for a bright vibrant green. I miss that green already and it will be along autumn/winter without it. I need more indoor plants so I can pretend it is warmer and greener outside than it actually is.

I haven't started planning for the 2019 garden yet, but that might change this week. I'm sort of in the mood to at least work on my tomato grow list. This probably would be a good week to go through the seed box to see what tomato seeds and pepper seeds I might need to order.

For anyone wanting to plant fruit trees, I am seeing them in the local garden centers and feed stores now---fresh new ones in containers ready to go into the ground and get a head start on making great root growth over the winter months.

What's new with everyone? Your gardens? Your yards? We are approaching the quiet season here on this forum as gardening activity ramps down.


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