Autumn Musings

Purple New England asters brighten the fall garden. (Photo (c) Hilda M. Morrill)
Purple New England asters brighten the fall garden. (Photo (c) Hilda M. Morrill)

We recently read an AP report noting that New England will experience a truly glorious autumn regarding foliage peeping-the best in a couple of years. That’s good news, for as the flowering plants in our garden wind down, trees decked out in colorful leaves will take up the slack.

That’s not to say there’s no color to enjoy right now, since pink perennial mums, purple New England asters and colchicums are in bloom. Also, lots of red berries are visible on our yews and hollies. Especially pretty are those of the deciduous Ilex verticillata, known as winterberry.

Incredibly, even though we’ve had some cold temps, we’ve not yet had a killing frost and we’re still harvesting green beans, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes. Although the “crops” wouldn’t win any awards regarding size and shapes, the flavors are heavenly. Especially tasty are the ‘Tami’ grape tomatoes. We’ll definitely plan on having a ‘Tami’ in next year’s vegetable garden.

Although I’m told that it’s best not to clean up the garden in the fall and that I should wait until spring, I always do some tidying up at this time of the year. First of all, I like to remove and dispose of the peony foliage as it can harbor diseases that can remain in the soil. I also don’t like to walk on the foliage of early spring blooming plants, such as grape hyacinths.

The hummingbirds have left us to begin their fall migration south so it’s time to bring in their nectar feeders. In their place we’ll put up one birdseed feeder, which will stay up all winter. At one time we had six seed feeders, but now we are down to one. It is in front of one of our kitchen windows and gives us so much pleasure watching our feathered friends all winter. Also, we are able to fill it by opening the window without having to go outdoors.

Once we finish removing the spent annual plants from the vegetable garden, I may seed a cover crop, maybe some winter rye. I’ve never done so in the past, but I’ve heard it’s “the thing to do.” The roots provide erosion control and in the spring they may be turned over/dug in, providing nutrients to the soil. I’ve always taken the lazy route and usually have just spread around a couple of bags of compost. My current favorite comes from Maine and is made of lobster shells.

It’s also a good time to divide some of the perennials, such as the overgrown and spreading hostas, which can take a lot of punishment. Also, at this time of the year, the soil stays warmer than the surrounding temps and I just have to remember to water them if there’s no rain.

We have been doing some gentle pruning of azaleas and are amazed that so many have blooms. Not so gentle has been our pruning of the forsythias (some of which had blooms!), which we’ve “let go” for a few years. Yes, we know there won’t be so many blossoms next spring, but it had to be done. Some of the “stems” were more than two inches wide! Maybe in a year or two we’ll get back on schedule and prune them as soon as they finish blooming. Someone once said that the best time to prune was when you had the clippers in your hand.

So, as things are winding down, we’ll enjoy the harvest moon and maybe an apple or pumpkin festival. And, maybe even some pumpkin ice cream!

Enjoy the season!