Am I the only person who finds fall as labor-intensive in the garden as spring?
Man, there is a lot to do.
- Crops have to be harvested. There is nothing left in the vegetable garden now except kale, parsnips and Brussels sprouts. The sprouts are okay no matter what. If I can chop the stalks off with an ax, they are perfectly great for Christmas dinner. However, if I don’t get the parsnips out of the ground and into sawdust in the cellar in the next two weeks, the soil will lock the parsnips in until April. People rave about spring parsnips. They sweeten up in the cellar, too, and I think they become less woody there than in the ground.
- Ornamentals have to be harvested, too. I have most, not all of my dahlias out of the ground. But I haven’t bought wood shavings yet for their Rubbermaid tubs. Must do before they dry out. I also have to pry my giant canna out of its pot outside and stick it in the basement before its corms freeze.
- Three hundred tulips and 50 dwarf iris had to be stuck in the ground. Since that’s the most rewarding task of fall, it’s done. I’m like Elizabeth, a bulb fanatic, so a casual planter of them. I drive a shovel into the ground, lift, cram five bulbs into the hole, refill and move on. No fertilization, no making sure each one is 8 inches deep. They’re always perfect anyway.
- Heavy pots galore must lifted. I’ve gotten all of the houseplants in. But the pots filled with frost-killed stuff–basil, tomato plants,
annuals–have to be emptied of soil and stored in the garage before they crack. Just to be clear here, I don’t really do houseplants unless they are edible or floriferous. The former include a bay tree and two rosemarys–it’s so wonderful to taste something so green in winter–as well as a fig tree that has dropped all its leaves, but not the two dozen unripe figs hanging off of it. Here’s hoping. The flowerers include a Martha Washington geranium so beautiful–it’s fuchsia and black–that I couldn’t compost it. It’s now blooming its head off in my bay window and making me happy indeed. So is the twee-est of houseplants, an African violet! I wouldn’t have bought such a thing in a million years, but my kids wanted them at the Capital District Flower Show last spring. I must say, with its maroon velvet flowers…kinda lovely. I planted it in pure compost, and it seems to really like that arrangement.
- Mulch must be applied. This year, I had too little mulch in my vegetable garden and the weeds were intense. I still have to call my lawn guy and ask him to dump a truckload of fall leaves on my vegetable garden in the country. The earthworms will thank me, and in my experience, nothing is better at keeping down the weeds. In an ideal world, I”ll get to spread this pile before it freezes solid. In the city, I’ve been busy for weeks now stealing leaves to put my flower beds to bed, as well as the vegetable garden at my daughter’s school. I casually wheel away streetside trash barrels filled with leaves whenever I see them–or lug away the harder to handle bags. I fear people find me very eccentric in my town! Not to mention that I’m certain to get caught at some point by an enraged neighbor who thinks I’m filching his trash can and not the contents.
- Goldfish have to be spared the popsicle treatment. Why, why, why? I suppose I like to see them in my garden in summer, but consider them the most troublesome members of a household full of troublemakers. I’ve gotten them successfully out of my pond. Now, I have to scrub their 30 gallon tank, lug the impossibly heavy thing upstairs to my daughter’s room, move her collection of ceramic cows somewhere else so I can set the tank down, wash pebbles for it, fill it, set up the pump, settle the fish in—and look forward to a long winter of buckets sloshing around the house for their weekly water change.
The best thing about being busy in November is that it keeps me from brooding on how bereft I’ll feel in December when there is no garden-related bustle at all.