In the nick of time

I am accustomed to doing things in the garden in the nick of time, or often after the fact when damage has already been done. I don’t know if procrastination is the exact term for it, or if it’s just plain laziness, but in the end most everything seems to get done, and of course some of the things that don’t get done didn’t really need to be done.

The forecast for Saturday night was for lows in the upper thirties to forty, and I decided that I had put off the inevitable long enough. A few dozen tropical plants are scattered on patios in the front and rear gardens, and they had to be brought inside eventually. I’ve too much time invested in the large agaves and bananas, and too much money on a bunch of smaller tropicals to let them spoil over one cold night. By good fortune the cold was forecast for the weekend, and I had no convenient excuses for putting this off any longer. There were several minor projects to be attended to first in the morning, then a few hours of dawdling before getting around to moving the heavy pots in late afternoon.

Either I’ve gotten old or the pots have grown since last year. Certainly I’ve never moved the huge ceramic container with the large lime colored elephant ear, or the one with the banana that was once well over my head that is now much shorter but filled with multiple trunks. Even in my younger years I couldn’t manage to lift these monsters, and so I set off to the basement to find the dolly, which came up missing though I can faintly recall that it’s flimsy wheels crumpled when moving something or other and it has probably been discarded.

I fetched the wheelbarrow, which had been overturned so that it did not collect water, but without much thought since one handle was buried in the swampy mud behind the shed. I’m not averse to getting dirty, but muddy hands made it that much more difficult to get a good hand hold on the large pots to wrangle them into the wheelbarrow. I’ll admit to a bit of mild cussing as I struggled, but finally the deed was done, and I managed to drag the wheelbarrow to the basement door.

Now, this is the place to tell you that no-flat wheelbarrow tires are wonderful in theory, and in practice they indeed don’t suffer from flats, but they are too stiff to easily bounce over the large stepping stone slabs and steps that lead to the basement. So, there was of course more harsh language, which is okay so long as I’m not too loud and my wife and the neighbors are indoors.

Two large, yellow striped yuccas were submerged in their pots into soil this year, and since they were extremely root bound at the time I potted them up into larger plastic containers. The yuccas are not cold hardy, and I knew that I’d have to dig them up to bring them in for the winter. Fortunately, they had rooted into the container so the yuccas pulled out in one piece, but one of the two was anchored in sloppy mud, so it was pulled from the hole with some difficulty. And then there are the spines!

Once the yuccas are brought indoors my wife insists on clipping off the extremely sharp spines, but after spending the summer in the garden they have grown substantially, and each new leaf has a needle-like spine. Imagine a waterlogged two hundred pound container of mud and vicious yucca needles, and me, leaning over this dangerous beast, grasping for a handhold. I can hear you laugh, but I can assure you that it was not a pretty sight. Yucca spines are not as brittle as the thorns of barberries, and luckily do not break off so easily, but they are stiff enough that they penetrate as deeply as you continue to push.

In any case, the yuccas were unearthed without too much blood being shed, and one was safely moved to the basement. The other made it halfway before I gave up due to the previously mentioned struggle to drag wheelbarrow over stones, and mud and spines that made it impossible to move the yucca any further. My determination not to skewer myself was stronger than the need to move the yucca indoors this evening, and so it will remain on the patio (halfway to the basement) until I get around to purchasing another dolly (one with pneumatic tires rather than hard rubber).

The low temperature for the night turned out to be only forty-one, so the tropicals would have gone through the night safely, but it’s good to get this task out of the way (with the exception of the remaining yucca). By Sunday morning my wife was complaining that I’ve brought hundreds of spiders inside, and I’m quite certain that this is exaggerating the problem by at least a few, but I’ve little doubt that in the days to come there will be ants and other little flying things that I can’t identify. I’ve been bringing tropicals from the garden into the house for a bunch of years now, and every year is an adventure.

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4 thoughts on “In the nick of time

  1. Had a gook chuckle reading about bringing your plants inside. Almost identical to our annual exercise. This year, to keep from bringing little critters inside, I keep waiting for two days with no rain so I can spray with a dormant spray, then another dry day so I can treat the soil where I believe these ants usually set up housekeeping. Laying those criteria (three dry days) on a calendar, and hoping we won’t see any freezes, like you, I’m dodging Mother Nature. Mine are all in pots, having spent the summer out on the deck, and will be rolled in (or lifted) into our adjoining sun room. That’s where the trouble (eg. ants) usually starts. Maybe this year will be different. (Ha!)

    • I admire your organization. There is no chance that I’m capable of planning a three day, three step process, even if the weather would cooperate. I’m a moody gardener. If the mood strikes I get a project done in a hurry, and if not things tend to drag on for awhile.

  2. After bringing in most of the tropical plant loving insect world one year, my otherwise agreeable wife now insists I spritz all our plants liberally with insecticidal soap before bringing them in. Has all but eliminated the problem and help prolong our 40 year marriage, for better or worse…

    • I visually inspect foliage before bringing plants indoors, but I suspect that most bugs (especially ants) are in the soil. This can probably be avoided by drenching the pots before they come inside, but that’s one more step that is likely to delay the project from being started.

      I have no excuse for the frog (my wife says it was a toad) that was brought inside last year. My powers of observation are obviously not too keen.

      On the plus side, I brought the tropicals in a day after another of our monsoon rains, so perhaps the ants had headed to higher ground for the day and didn’t make it back into the pots by the time I moved them.

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