Sally Mullins

The days are getting shorter and most of us are still at home. We have been in for a long time and it seems like we should be out and around, but not just yet.

I worry about the children and the educators who went back to school because everything is new and different this year. My experience with children tells me a mask is not going to stay in place all the time and there will be new and innovative ways of wearing it, without actually wearing it.

The teachers have their hands full whether in person with the students or online. This is a time full of new ideas and problems needing to be resolved.

Talk to your kids and listen to each other. You may be amazed at some of the solutions your children will come up with. If nothing else, have a good laugh together, we can all use that.

Be patient with your children and be kind to their teachers, who are working harder than ever this year. We are all in this together and while there is not going to be a quick fix allowing everyday life to be back to normal this week or month, life will get better eventually.

As to what qualifies as normal remains to be seen.

This year has been confusing to us and to our plants, many of which are dying back. Most are not ready to be cut down completely and just require a little cosmetic trimming.

Our nights turned cooler a week or so ago and we have been taking plants indoors or moving them closer to the house at night. My rule is 50 degrees or lower and they come indoors.

If you have tomatoes or peppers in large containers, they should be brought closer to the house. Cut tender herbs before any expected frost.

According to the Farmers Almanac, the first frost date for Romney is 2 weeks from now on Oct. 7. I don’t know how accurate that is, but it’s all we have to go on. Keep an eye on the forecasts because warm days mean nothing when it comes to night temperatures.

Staying home this year has resulted in many new home projects and hopefully one of yours was gardening. Harvesting is always the best part, but if your garden has not produced as much as you wanted, Spring Valley market has fall vegetables and many varieties of apples.

They also have mums for sale and if you want them to perform as perennials for years in your garden, get them now and plant them immediately so their roots can become acclimated to their new home.

Yes, they will look nice in their pots by the front gate, on the porch or by the driveway, but even if you water them well, there is little chance they will return if you wait to plant them. If you put them in the ground now, they will bloom well into fall, so plant them.

We had a record number of hummingbirds at our feeders this year and to see 6 or more at one time at each feeder was not unusual. The 2 feeders on the deck and the 2 on the porch needed refilled in the morning and again halfway through the afternoon.

However, around the 10th of September they were nearly all gone. Since they all look alike, it is difficult to know if those you see now were here all summer or if they’re new birds on their migration from more northern cities.

Hummingbirds take the same route both ways each year, which is how they know where your feeders are when they arrive in the spring. Newly hatched hummers will follow an older bird or group that first year. But once it learns the route, a bird may retrace it every year as long as it lives.

Some folks worry their departure south would be delayed if they continued to feed them too late in the season, but hummers choose the time to leave by the shortening length of sunlight as fall approaches.

If you remove the feeder before they leave, they won’t starve. They’ll find flowers or insects elsewhere, but they may not return to your feeders next year. Plus leaving them up a bit longer will help those just passing through on their way south.

As always, our ornamental grasses are proving to be one of our best investments. They provide color and texture to the landscape all year. Added to a plant arrangement, they provide height and a contrasting shape to the cut flowers.

In the gray winter months they stand tan, adding color and providing seeds and cover for the birds. Larry has taken divisions and planted them in different areas where they’ve continued to grow and look great.

Ornamental grasses do well in sun or shade, with or without a lot of water and can provide a border between neighbors. Aside from being cut back to the ground in spring, they need no care and are truly a self sufficient, no fuss plant. And, deer never eat them.

Questions can be left at the Hampshire Review office or emailed to me at thegardenpath@hotmail.com. Please put “gardening” in the subject box and leave a phone number so I can get back to you if necessary.

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