Update: Fall Clean Up, Round I

I’m trying to clean up messy plants. I’m saving the potting soil from the plants from this past summer in a wheelbarrow; I’ll use it in the bottoms of pots I start in the spring, so I don’t have to fill up my huge pots with all new potting soil.

One idea I have for next year is adding in some rock phosphate into the soil I’m saving this fall. The rock phosphate will reinvigorate the old soil I’m saving now. When I start populating pots and planters in spring, I’ll amend the old soil and recycle it, rather than letting it go to waste.

I harvested peppers with the kids today. I’m going to try to dehydrate all the peppers and make my own pepper flakes.

What’s really cool is that I love butterfly bushes. Big box stores and nurseries usually charge at least $17 for one gallon or gallon and a half butterfly bush. But through cloning, I realize I’m able to propagate more easily than I ever imagined.

We have collected cones from some long-needle pine trees and are going to see if we can harvest seeds from them. I hear you can use heat for extraction. I’m thinking we may need to stratify them, too—giving them a season of cold and dormancy to prepare them for germination.

How the Cut Flower Keeps Living: Cloning & 3 Things to Know for Fall

Thank you for reading! You can see me in action as I explain cloning in a YouTube tutorial and me talking Fall with my wife, Jay on my channel, also The Weekend Garden Soldier. If you get over there, we would appreciate your feedback—whether you like, subscribe, leave a comment, or ask me a question.

My wife and I are really happy with our garden victories this year, but we each see this time of year a little differently. She feels more urgency than I do to move on to the next big shift. I don’t think we’re done with this stage just yet. I’m still thinking about a few different things on the cusp of Fall.

  1. Bargain plants Keep a look out. Prices are gonna start to drop in stores that know what they’re doing. It’s better to sell a plant for a dollar, rather than throw it away. That’s my opinion. Even the best greenhouses waste a lot of plants by not decreasing prices as the seasons demand.
  2. Fall I don’t consider the arrival of autumn as the end of gardening. As a matter of fact, there’s still technically a lot more for me to do. Bulbs. Perennials. Late-season (probably October) planting… So this is a time for gardeners like me—who dream of always growing, even in urban or small settings—can keep our minds sharp and our hopes up for planning, planting, and preparing whatever your garden space looks like.
  3. Strategy As I plan what I want to do with both my edible and inedible gardens, I can’t just assume I will remember everything I want to change and implement next year. I have to take notes. For the same reason it’s a good idea for me to lable my plants as they go into our gardens, I write something down as I imagine what I will create, what I will keep and what I’ll move for the next season.

CLONING I say it’s a good time to clone, because I want to clone at a time that the plants are still in good shape—while there are still healthy shoots. It’s not necessarily an optimal time to collect cuttings for propagation, more of a preference—my liking to plant seeds, growing plants indoors from February to May. So, for me, as long as there is some active growth.

Below, you can see me making a cutting of Echinacea (Coneflower).

When I zoom out of my laser focus on traditional sowing and garden maintenance, the end of the summer presents me with an ideal window for the way I prefer to dedicate resources by season. It’s a time that my cutting back the plant will actually help the aesthetics of our garden beds. If I have a big plant, cutting it back for this beneficial purpose also allows me to tidy up my perennial. I love cloning and growing our home gardens this way.

Some things I want to look into include (but are not limited to): growing garlic successfully, getting a garden journal to help us record big garden moments, and researching things like succession gardening and what the Fall should look like for food we love to grow like beans and peas.

Let me know what your garden plans are—big or small!

WHY I Clone My Favorite Perennials

In my gardens, I am cutting back leggy plants and things that are done performing for me. I am harvesting what’s left of our outdoor crops. I’m preparing to bring tropical plants that are not hardy to my growing zone inside for overwintering. Overwintering a plant just means I’m making changes in how I handle the needs of a plant, so it can live through a season during which the environment isn’t hospitable. I’m also cloning my favorite perennials.

For whatever reason you want to or are thinking about cloning plants, it’s a great year round option for adding to you garden collection of plants. Propagating plants is simply breeding specimens of (the plant) by natural processes from the parent stock—that is, in this case, propagating your own houseplants from cuttings. I record myself cutting them, so you can understand the process on my YouTube channel, also called The Weekend Garden Soldier. Nodes are the part of a plant stem from which one or more leaves emerge, often forming a slight swelling or knob. Below a node is where you cut the plant, in anticipation of that part of the stem being planted underground. That’s where it will root.

And all you need to begin growing your favorite plants from the ones you already have in your home garden is/are:

  • your favorite type of shears. (You can see me on my YouTube channel using my wife’s meat shears to make cuttings in my “Cloning Cuttings” Series. )
  • a sunny work and storage area for you to prepare your cuttings immediately after you’ve collected them and for keeping them when the cuttings are ready to root. (This can vary from a windowsill that gets some sun to a permanent or temporary greenhouse structure.)
  • rooting hormone
  • propagation sponges and other containers, &
  • materials for maintaining and observing whether your cuttings are getting sufficient humidity during the rooting and transplantation process. (This might be a humidity dome. It could be ziplock bags.)

On The Weekend Garden Soldier YouTube Channel, I link to the pertinent products that I use to prepare for cloning and also the next step, transplantation, when my successful clones root. Today I took cuttings from Bluebeard (Caryopteris),

…two different Butterfly Bushes,

…and from a few different rose bushes.

The only option I have is to propogate in the case of certain plants. For instance, I can’t buy seeds for plants like Lantana. There are lots of perennials that don’t make seeds. Sometimes seeds don’t turn out the way you expect them to. Additionally, I’ve always been curious to test my ability to see whether I can grow a full-sized rose from a cutting, because I like to see small plants grow bigger. Cloning assures plants will be true to form. I can make sure my favorite or rare plants stick around by cloning them, too.

Late Summer

Late summer is a time where I’m doing a lot of harvesting and trying to refresh certain parts of the garden where plants have gotten old and “leggy.” Especially annual beds, I need to cut way back. Even in the perennial beds, there are lots of weeds to remove.

Removing old annuals

It’s still summer, so it’s still warm. I can start or continue projects. In our backyard, we are taming the the border near a stand of trees. That means clearing out weeds, Poison Ivy (unfortunately), and cutting out brush and dead tree limbs.

Putting in a new perennial

As it pertains to harvesting, we still have a lot of tomatoes. At this time of the year, it feels like a constant harvest, picking off what we want to eat each day.

In certain places, we’re cleaning up as we close out the last round of harvesting. For instance, in the planters we built for peas, beans, cucumbers, onions, and carrots, we have completed the final harvest and moved brightly-colored cannas to take their places in the planters in which we sustainably grown food for the entire season.

In fact, a lot of tropicals like the cannas and hibiscus and elephant ears really love the lingering end of summer and begin to truly flourish.

Thriving Hibiscus

Late summer is also a time when we start reflecting on plants that we’re done with—how we can improve. It would be a good idea to take notes right now of what we like and don’t like, the numbers of what we want to do and how.

For instance, we would handle the tomatoes the way we did—in big, tall pots (versus in the ground, because of accessibility). We’d grow the two tomatoes that we really loved and maybe one other variety in containers out on the deck off the south side of the house. We’d grow an entire planter of onions, rather than mixing them in with any other vegetable. We use onions every day, so it would be great to mass produce them. Next year, we definitely want to grow bell peppers and garlic (basically, everything we throw into our favorite Thai dish). We wouldn’t change anything about carrots, except growing them together with Cosmos.

Final Carrot Haul

We wouldn’t try to grow any in 2 gallon grow bags, but only in the ground in the planters we built. Grow bags are great to start things in, but they aren’t great for sustaining the way we live and eat food. We’re going to also attempt to potatoes, another staple.

All this being said, summer is also a time sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of our labor, literally and figuratively.

Gorgeous, Gorgeous Day!

Today was a beautiful day. The perfect day for gardening. Basically, 72 degrees out. We mowed, edged, fertilized, weeded, and sprayed the roses. The roses need an anti-fungal treatment for rust and black spot. The kids have been helping out, taking pictures of the garden, and they’ve come out with some great pics. Maybe it’s just the fact that they’re lower to ground but they have a different perspective.

The zinnias are starting to pop. They’re my favorite flower.

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Starting to Fill In

More stuff is coming up. Dahlias. Clematis. Iris. Annual Phlox. Calibrachoa. Peonies. The funny thing about peonies is that ants get all over them to open up the buds. We’re also getting a decent amount of rain, so I haven’t had to run the sprinkler that much: water conservation.

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I created a new box to beautify the parkway since we don’t have much going on out there. Already had some coneflower growing over there, which I dug up and put into a new planter I made…along with 3 types of drought tolerant sedum (a large genus of flowering plants in the family Crassulaceae, members of which are commonly known as stonecrops). Also a zinnia, marigold, petunia, and violas went into the parkway planter. I’ve built planters like this one a million times.

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Also new to the garden is a cement hummingbird birdbath, which I tweeted about on the day it went in from @gardensoldier. My wife says the birds are still testing out the bath, which looks ancient with its elaborate carvings.

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Almost the end…

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Mulch Ado: Bringing a Little Order to Wild Beauty


We went to the market in the early day. It’s always good to wake up on Saturdays, get going doing stuff, so you can have a full day. We got some local goods like cut kale and a kale plant. We got what the vendor described as “Mexican-style Giardiniera,” which is EXTREMELY hot (apparently. My wife is the only one who’s had some as of now.). My daughter got some homemade, organic lip balm.

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We went to the park and had a nice time after our shopping.

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HOME DEPOT: Trip 1, Trip 2 and Trip 3

I went and got a bunch of bags of mulch. Brown mulch and red mulch. Got back and then started the WeekendGardenSoldier session!


The best things I like about mulching are that it helps identify and isolate the plants that I actually planted. Of course, there are the known benefits of mulching: Retaining moisture and keeping weeds down.

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Off and Poppin’

Things aren’t flowering as fast as I’d like. Normally by now I think I’d have more flowers going. I could be wrong. Pansies and snapdragons look like they’re going. I’m probably just getting impatient.

Over the last weekend, I did put out a whole bunch of new tropicals—cannas and elephant ears. Got the watering system set for the back bed. Just about everything is outside now. I have a few lingering plants inside.

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Now that the roses—Rosa rugosa (rugosa rose, Japanese rose, or Ramanas rose)—are all dug up, I put the new privet hedges in. The majority of them are budding out. It’s real nice to have a fresh start. The Rosa rugosa that I grew from seed (as opposed to the ones I just dug up, which came as saplings) are doing great! They’re super-healthy. I just like them because as they’re getting bigger, they stay where they are. Stay where they’re put.

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I dug up the hydrangeas that were being overrun by weeds and saplings. I actually put them in pots. I put that acidic stuff (aluminum sulfate) in one of the pots, so I can compare the results to the potted hydrangea without. Theoretically, hydrangea might not survive the winter in pots; so I might have to bury the pots. We’ll see.

The Back Breaker Rose


Because of the hot weather, I put out a bunch of tropicals. Now we’re getting rain, they’re gonna be rained in, which I would describe as what happens when a lot of water comes down and soaks the roots. That’s good, because it makes the roots have good contact with the surrounding soil as the root ball is gently broken up. This is the earliest I’ve been able to get them out, and the weather is cooperating with that.


There were a few roses I had… A lot of times when you buy roses, they don’t say what zone they’re from; I think they may do that on purpose so you’ll be more willing to buy them. Anyway, I think a couple of our roses were the wrong zone. One was a rose tree. I haven’t seen any green on that yet. The other 2 rose plants have some green on them, one a little more than the other. I did mound them (put a bunch of dirt on the bud union, bottom of the canes. You can also wrap burlap around them to protect the actual canes, which I think would have helped). They have a little green on them, but they haven’t budded out. I decided to dig them up, put them in pots, and see if I can get them to sprout out. However, I was able to preserve the genetics of those 2 by cloning them. After growing them inside all summer, I placed them in the far planter with the finials (described in my post about recycling tree stumps).

In the meantime we got a few roses to replace them: Charisma; John F. Kennedy; Iceberg; and  1 other.

Any new plants I get… New roses, I should say: I’ll probably clone them. Just in case they don’t make it through the winter.

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ROSA RUGOSA: Our Living Hedge is Defeated

Rosa rugosa (rugosa rose, Japanese rose, or Ramanas rose) is a species of rose native to eastern Asia, in northeastern China, Japan, Korea and southeastern Siberia, where it grows on the coast, often on sand dunes. We’ve grown it from seed, and those ones are doing great—thriving, healthy, gorgeous. It’s the ones we bought and planted as saplings… They’ve spread through the entire front yard (about a 1/4 acre of land) and started to look unkempt despite our attempts to prune them properly. I’m replacing them with privet hedges.

First I tried to dig em out with a shovel. It actually worked on the first one; but by the time I got to the second, I realized the roots were like tree trunks. I had to resort to more lumberjack methods! So I got the nary used axe and finally got my money’s worth! Basically, I chopped the bushes down like sugar cane on the Amazing Race. Except, this was much harder!

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Happy Living Garden: Out of their Cups, Plant Seedlings Go into Beds, Pots & Planters


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*The featured Gerbera Daisy (below) was overwintered in the basement. Overwintering is the process by which some organisms pass through or wait out the winter season, or pass through that period of the year when “winter” conditions (cold or sub-zero temperatures, ice, snow, limited food supplies) make normal activity or even survival difficult or near impossible.

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