Sow There! When rain knocks on your door — clean out the gutters, 11-13-20

Agapanthus in full bloom are a summer treat, for humans and butterflies. The cool season is a good time to divide plants trapped in containers. (Heather Hacking — Contributed)
November 13, 2020 at 3:35 a.m.

We had our first spit of rain. Finally.

I left my school at dusk, driving west into the last bit of light. A cloud had opened, just for me, to allow the sun to wink goodbye to the day. I could see the veil in the sky, where rain or snow was suspended in the air over the distant hillside. The westward mountains wore a dusting of white, which would be gone by the time I looked the next day.

The first rain, as with that shard of light meant just for me, can be fleeting.

Distant snow is a warning to squirrels and humans to get prepared for the more substantial rains to come.

Rain gutter warning

Hurry. Don’t wait.

If you don’t risk your life at the edge of the roof now you will have a gunky, even more perilous job to do when it’s truly sweater weather.

A winsome new friend sent me a selfie recently. He was on the top of his roof, wearing a wide grin and feeling triumphant. He had just discovered that if you clean out the rain gutters when the leaves are still dry, you can use a leaf-blower.

This certainly beats waiting until the water soaks the leaves from the previous season. After the first hard rain, the gunk in your rain gutters resembles something you would find when you open the pea trap under the kitchen sink.

Home improvement stores sell a number of gadgets that will help clean gutters. I’ve tried the plastic scoop, shaped perfectly for this unwanted job. You can also buy gloves and buckets and even a high-pressure nozzle for your hose.

I watched the helpful video from Home Depot, at If I purchased all the products suggested, I could spend hundreds of dollars and work on my rain gutters from now until Valentine’s Day. It would be so much easier if a nice college student knocked on your door. Preferably he or she would have a bucket and a ladder in the back of a pickup truck, and the knock would arrive right after the first drizzle.


We’re in a pandemic, so my fantasy rain-gutter cleaner would also wear a mask.

I could pay this fictitious helper for a decade, rather than stock up on do-it-yourself supplies.

I did learn a cool trick from the big-box store video: After you think you have thoroughly degunked the rain gutters, run the hose down the metal shoot. If the water flows unevenly, there could be a clog in the downspout. Of course, the big-box store sells the perfect hose nozzle for the task. They also sell plastic mesh to keep the gunk from clogging the downspout.

Sowing after rain

I’m hopeful we’ll get some real rain soon. That’s when I know to put grass seed in the bald spots in the lawn. I also press poppy seeds into the cracks in the pavement of my driveway, or simply toss the seeds out the window while I’m driving along the freeway. In this weather, we can also plant spinach, kale and maybe lettuce (if it isn’t too late). I plant seeds and then forget about them until New Year’s or beyond.

The wet season is also a good time to plant perennials, according to Sunset Magazine’s November checklist, which can be found at Last spring I snipped some jasmine from my neighbor’s hedge and placed the sprigs in pots. They survived the summer, miraculously, and are ready to go into the ground.

I also like to divide potted plants in the fall. The agapanthus, for example, are pushing the limits of their 10-gallon containers.

Those folks at Sunset Magazine must not consider hobbies other than gardening. The November to-do list includes cleaning all the leaves and fallen fruit under fruit trees and spraying leaves for things like peach leaf curl and brown rot.

Penn State Extension,,  suggests dividing iris plants in late summer. However, I usually wait until the ground is soft from rain. Iris plants are so hardy you can afford to lose a few and you’ll still have dozens to spare when you divide the iris clump five years from now. Penn State notes we need to let the plants establish themselves for four to six weeks before the “hard freeze,” which usually doesn’t hit us hard.

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