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COLUMN: Take advantage of odd November weather

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Who would have thought that we’d have 70-degree days in the middle of November?
I just can’t figure out Kentucky’s weather and I’ve been trying for the past 14 years. Last year at this time the high was 54, with an average of 44 degrees. The year before that we had a high of 34 degrees. Maybe I brought a little Arizona weather back with me and it just took the scenic route.
I like consistency. In Arizona, I had a garden year round. The weather basically had two seasons and they were pretty much the same, year after year. Here, every summer and fall is different. You can’t count on a thing being the same. One thing is for sure, I’ll never get bored.
Since we’ve had such mild weather this fall, it’s given me the opportunity to get more things done outside before it gets really cold. I can put the gardens to bed properly, like in a perfect world.
In a perfect world, all tools and equipment get cleaned and put away in their place. The beds all get fertilized and tilled. Of course, I don’t till the raised beds, but I do fertilize them. The areas that I sow seed by hand gets a layer of newspaper and straw after tilling. That way I’m not waiting on the soil to dry, so that I can plant.
On a nice spring day off, I just move back the straw and poke a hole through the paper. I don’t have to mulch, because it’s already done. I just have to fence and wait for the sprouts to show their heads.
If you can only till your garden now, you’ll still be giving yourself a big step up for next year’s garden. Remember all those weeds you were fighting? The ones that hung on, even through the drought, are getting even stronger as each day goes by.
Tilling exposes those roots and dropped seeds to the winter weather. They don’t get to hibernate under the soil through the cold months, only to spring to life when the weather turns warm. At the very least, tilling will reduce the amount of weeds we fight in the early spring. You’ll spend less time hoeing and more time enjoying.
I’ve been keeping the hoses out, just unhooked, for watering trees and perennials. The more consistent the watering, the healthier the plant and 1 inch of water per week is ideal for most. A long, slow drink, once a week is what most prefer.
I started my winter window garden this week. Last year I grew carrots. I had a good crop but it took forever. The weak winter sun made them grow slower. This year I’m trying yellow squash. In the summer it takes about four weeks from seed to first fruit. Since the sun will be weaker and less frequent, I’m guessing it will take at least eight weeks. I could be harvesting in January.
I’m already picturing those pretty yellow flowers brightening my day. I can sit by the wood stove and gaze out that same window at the white stuff on the ground, while I page through the new seed catalogues. Now, if only someone will invest a remote control snow shoveler.
Let’s take advantage of this weird weather and do our part in making a perfect world. Clean out the shed, so you can actually walk in it.
You can take the stuff you don’t use anymore to the Humane Society’s Giant Rummage Sale on Friday night, Nov. 26. The sale is Saturday at Legion Hall, across from the high school. You can take a tax deduction on the lot and help out homeless animals stay warm and safe this winter in the process.
Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.