The mild sunny days we recently had were truly a treat, much too pretty to stay indoors. For a gardener, being outdoors generally means catching up with yard work which, fortunately, is almost like second nature for most of us. Besides, even though the busiest gardening season is over, there are plenty of chores that need to be done in the fall.
To start with, it is cleanup time now; so, one of the first things I did on those relatively warm days was to empty the pots which housed annuals, perennials or vegetables during summer. If left outside during cold weather, not only do they begin to look beat-up, but can crack as well, especially the terracotta ones. Incidentally, I saved the potting soil with the anticipation that I might be able to reuse it in the spring if needed.
Next on my list of chores, which though I didn’t get around to, is to work on the perennial bed, but perhaps I will after we have a couple of killing frosts. Then, most perennials can be cut down, taking care not to injure the central crown, which in some cases is still alive. One important tip I need to bear in mind is to mark the sites of the plants unless the markers put at the time of planting are still in place; few things hurt more than digging into a dormant plant. Meanwhile, now is a good time to divide some of the overcrowded perennials to grow elsewhere in the garden or share with others.
Whereas a personal preference, it is always nice to leave some perennials intact for winter interest and to give birds a place to perch upon; our hibiscus, which is loaded with dried seed pods these days is one such example. And, though we did pull up our tall okra plants since Sandy, the super storm, knocked them down, I saved the dried fruits to use in fall arrangements.
Another major aspect of clean-up at this time of the year is to tackle the winter weeds that are “flourishing” everywhere in the garden; while a daunting task indeed, it does give me a reason to be out in the yard and get some much-needed exercise, sunshine and fresh air. Speaking of which, a good task to tend to on a not-a-sunny-but-a-gloomy day, is to inventory, clean and reorganize the tool shed. Getting rid of tools that are damaged or not functional any longer creates space and at the same time limits the temptation of using unsafe items. Likewise, the watering hose that has been lying out all spring and summer needs to be drained and brought inside so as not to damage it from cold, freezing temperatures.
Fall, undeniably, is a glorious season, but at times feels like a bittersweet time, too. Days are getting shorter which means less sunshine, annuals are on the last phase of their life cycle, and we don’t hear birds chirping as much. Nevertheless, fall is an ideal time for planting. And, what better way to uplift a gardener’s spirits than to dig a hole, get down on all fours and plant a tree, a shrub, a perennial or whatever the heart so desires.
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