This is the time of year when all good things in the garden must come to an end. First on my “to do” list is putting away all the garden furniture, garden pots, statuary and other art objects that I use to create surprises for those wandering around my garden. The seagull, carved out of white marble, needs shelter from the freezing temperatures of the winter if I am to preserve it for many years to come. Bring inside those herbs you will use all winter – bay leaves, rosemary, possibly chives and parsley too.
Next on my list is top dressing all the flower beds. This entails putting about two inches of manure (goat, cow, pig, horse, even chicken) on top of all the perennials which have already been cut back to within 2-3 inches of the soil as they finished flowering and their leaves begin to wither. If you have the energy, this is a good time to weed your flower beds one last time.
Raking leaves can wait until the last trees, usually beech, have shed their leaves and then all can be gathered onto the compost heap to slowly turn into a rich manure. If you are lucky, or resourceful like Leslie Clapp, you will have acquired by now a leaf shredder, which will greatly speed up decomposition. Hard to find (most shredders only work with dry wood and bark) I keep promising myself to bring one back from England, where they are ubiquitous.
Fertilize the lawn with organic Pro-Start, rich in potassium to encourage root growth. If your garden suffers from Japanese beetles, now is the time to use Milky Spore to kill all the grubs in the soil. After 6 treatments over a 2-year period, I am finally seeing some improvement in my lawn, with almost no areas of dead grass where the root system has been destroyed by hungry skunks and turkeys rooting around for fat, juicy beetle grubs.
Plant bulbs, which you can still do until the ground freezes hard, usually around the end of November, but who knows when in this age of obviously changing seasonal temperatures. Prune back the wisteria to four buds on each stem and then plan on pruning it even further back in the Spring. Plant garlic in soil rich enough and deep enough to feed it and cover with straw to protect from the freeze-thaw cycles of winter.
And if you haven’t already done so, run out and buy winter rye, oats or buckwheat to sow on your newly-tilled vegetable garden to provide green manure you can plow into the soil in the Spring. If the warm weather holds you should have about another three weeks for the crop to germinate, providing much-needed nutrition for your hungry vegetables to feed on next Spring.
Then, when all the hard work is done, sit back, pour yourself a glass of Burgundy or home-brewed ale, relax in front of the log fire and start dreaming about the beauty of the garden you will create next summer. Bon repos!
~ Julie Wang