Autumn Garden Work

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Today I realized that  we’re halfway through September already and that means I can count the weeks to frost on one hand.  The gardeners with vegetable plots are already taking in most of their produce and putting the beds to rest.  Flower gardeners must be doing things too, like rounding up rose care materials and other such things.  I am wearing a compression bandage on my right knee, wondering if I will dare to do autumn garden work this fall.

Garden work minimalism

By and large, I tend to let my “garden” be wild.  Every year I pull grass out of the areas next to the foundation of the house on the north side.  Most years I also put mulch there but that didn’t happen this year.  None of the plants seem to care.   Sometimes I plant new plants or move old ones around.  Once I divided a couple of hostas.  They must have root balls the size of bowling balls right now.

I stuck some peonies out in the yard and they come up every year.  Naturalized daylilies and daffodils do pretty well here if the natural flora don’t totally crowd them out.  Due to the shortness of our growing season, the native plants grow and spread aggressively.

Most of what’s growing here is wild, you see.  I have wild geraniums that volunteered in my foundation strip; they fill in between other things and keep coming back. Around back we have a couple of massed wild rose bushes, and all the flowers are bright magenta when they bloom.  We get plenty of butterflies, pollinator bugs, and even hummingbirds to watch all summer, all for very little actual garden work.

We have several apple trees thanks to people throwing cores after eating apples.  Right by the back door is a Mackintosh tree that loaded up with apples for us and for the deer.  And for once the plum trees produced an actual crop of fruit.  I got enough to try making a fruit spread and it turned out pretty good.

The choke cherry trees are loaded down, even after I went and got my annual potful.  They say you shouldn’t harvest them till after first frost.  I find that waiting means the birds and bears will clean them out.  I left them plenty but they’ll leave me downed tree limbs and little dried cherries in the treetops.

We used to have acres of wild raspberries but they went away.  We also used to have blackberries in abundance and they, too, have petered out lately.  I should probably get up an expedition to the far end of our land to see what’s on it now.

The problem with irises

My irises live on the west end of the house, on an incline.  Over the years they have inched their way down the flower bed alloted to them and moved a few pioneers into the lawn.  Where yesterday they got mowed down again.

The irises haven’t been blooming well for a couple of years.  I read up and found out that I will have to dig them up, knock off any dead root material, and trim the leaves off.  Then I will have to replant them where I want them.  Good, said I, I will do that this fall.  For sure.

Last week my knee swelled up for no apparent reason.  There was no pain and the only functional problem was that I couldn’t bend my knee very far for the swelling.  So I googled up what to do and have got it under fair control for now.  I hope to be able to dig up those irises and replant them this fall after all.

The hostas, I’m afraid, will have to wait till next year.  They don’t look like they’d mind.  I might shift some daylilies if I have knees left over from the irises.

Lawn care and trimming

Over the last two months I’ve participated in mowing what we laughingly refer to as the lawn, and picking up trimmed branches and brush.  Ours is a country place and not a golf course or suburban lawn.  Whatever will hold the soil down and look green even when mowed can live there for all I care.  We mow from May into September.  I think we are on our last cutting of the year.

My husband has been trimming back the enthusiastic overgrowth of the undergrowth.  If we are to keep open space to make the mice nervous about the commute to the house, he has to cut back the woody weeds every year.  He also has to take down the trees broken by weather and wildlife, and we have to cut those up.  When we’re lucky we can get some in for firewood, but most of it goes on the brush pile.

Because our yard is so hilly and rough. I had to get ankle-supporting work boots with good traction so I could help mow.  Turning the mower around on a slope going in two directions at once in sneakers wasn’t making it.

I found that with the exercise and support, my legs felt better than they had, and some pains receded.  I’d been in a very sedentary job till the end of June and was having some joint trouble.  I guess the swelling knee is just more of that.

Benefits of garden work

Even someone like me who doesn’t voluntarily spend most of her summer in service to plants benefits from gardening.  I notice that people I know who garden are fitter and healthier in general than those who don’t.  Garden work is as hard as you let it be before you say, “OK, be that way.”

Those brave souls who are willing to fight off all kinds of bugs, slugs, birds and creatures, not to mention the molds and fungi, can also get food from gardens.  I really admire those folks.

Years ago we ran a garden in South Carolina.  I canned and pickled and cooked a lot then, putting up all that food.  My husband and I are just not up to that any more.  A couple of potted tomato plants is about as far as we go now.

But I do look back on the produce, including strawberries, rhubarb, really fresh tomatoes, greens and beans.  It was wonderful to have all those things in season and so fresh!  Which is why I am now thankful for the area farms that sell locally.

Garden work also gives people a feeling of accomplishment.  Whether they are master gardeners who lay everything out by a plan and get it to look good and be healthy, or, like me, do the minimum.   I know I’ll feel great if next year the irises are blooming in their bed.  Hey, I might even give them some mulch!

What do you do for autumn garden work, if anything?  Comments please!




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