Fall is a time for getting reconnected with the garden. After a summer filled with travelling and adventure, it's nice rake leaves and listen to the birds. For a few short (and sweet) weeks, I thought I would finally have time to fully reclaim my wild, overgrown vegetable garden, until the fall semester of school started. For a while, there seemed to be no hope in having a orderly vegetable garden again, until I sat down at my kitchen table and, with the help of my trusty yellow notepad and a pen, wrote out a list of things that I could do.
Tasks that I could squeeze into my busy schedule and still come away with a sense of accomplishment. Stuff like leaving mushrooms in the yard and watching them grow and change (and snapping a million pics), or placing my fall bulb order and thinking about how they will look in the spring garden. These are, at their core, jobs. They don't feel like work, but they are. I have jotted down 10 simple tasks below that are quick and simple that were on my agenda for last Saturday.
1. Keep on weeding
This is one area where a large number of gardeners (myself included) usually fail. If you slack off for even a few days the weeds are always there, looking for opportunities to gobble up your garden. Once a few seeds are set, the battle starts all over again next year.
2. Order fall-planted Bulbs.
As soon as the first cool snap hits I'm immediately reminded: place my fall bulb order! I love a good show of tulips, daffodils, and other early spring bloomers, but in order for them to be successful I need to plant their bulbs this fall. Ordering now ensures that I have them when the time comes to plant.
3. Be sure to water
Water any newly planted trees and shrubs until the first frosts so they will slip into dormancy well-hydrated. Evergreens, such as Rhododendrons and conifers, are especially prone to getting winterburn if they are not well hydrated.
4. Start mulching
Spread some form of organic matter over the soil to prevent weeds and enrich the garden. This is probably the most time consuming job on this list, but I had to include it because of the incredible benefits. Not only will it suppress any further weed growth, but it will also decay and provide valuable nutrients to the surrounding plants.
5. Don't knock down the mushrooms!
I know this is not really a true job, but it is to people have been trained their whole lives that mushrooms are a bad thing. Sure, they interrupt the perfect greenery of a lawn, but the majority of mushrooms and fungi actually HELP more than they hurt. Not only do they decompose organic matter, but as this article by Oregon State University states, they can make your plants more drought and disease resistant. I will definitely be writing some articles on fungi and the benefits they hold for the earth at some point.
6. If space becomes available in the vegetable garden:
Consider sowing a cover crop (such as red clover), to build the soil. This job is usually accomplished in as little as five minutes. Since I practice no-till gardening in my yard, I simply rake away any mulch that may be in place (unless it is something like compost, which can have seeds sown on top of it), and scatter the seed over the exposed soil. Lightly water them in afterwards, and you've got yourself a cover crop in the making!
7. Sow hardy annuals.
This includes flowers like bachelors buttons and poppies. I lightly disturb the top layer of the soil with a rake, and evenly sprinkle the seeds over the top, watering in afterwards. After that, I just wait and reap the rewards next spring.
8. Start or add to the compost heap.
Now is a good time to start a compost heap or add to an existing one. The cooler weather means decomposing worms and microorganisms are more active than they were in high summer, and, at least in my garden, the vegetable garden waste is high this time of year.
9. Take Cuttings
I took cuttings of existing herbs that may not successfully overwinter in my garden, such as rosemary, sage, lavender, and lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora). Also, start to propagate plants that are not reliably hardy. This varies by zone, but in my area, I always take cuttings of my Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha), since they are marginally hardy.
10. Take Stock
Make a list of what survived the summer. If something didn't make it due to drought or neglect, observe the area for indications of why it died. Did it not like its location, or did it succumb to a pest or disease? In my garden this year, I discovered (to my great disappointment) that the grass Stipa gigantea dislikes the humidity of the south. Sigh... I guess my garden can't grow everything. 😉
This list only a small portion of the crazy to-do list I have right now, but the items on the list are fun for me. Instead of walking to the far end of my vegetable garden and despairing over the bindweed that has invaded while I was away, I can focus. I can slowly reclaim the garden, one space at a time.
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