Years ago I knew a woman named Mazie. She said she loved her children most twice a day: first thing in the morning when they just woke and last thing at night as she tucked them to bed.
The garden is like this. I love it first thing in the morning, the dew sparkling on the leaves, the plants fully hydrated from the moisture of overnight. The garden is then, alive with sounds: birds taking deep swoops among the branches, squirrels playing chase along the fence tops. Bees “come-to” from their nectar-filled doze. I am very much in love with the garden in spring, the “let’s-have- at-it” time of year when we are raring to go, boots in the starting blocks after a long winter’s rest. We can’t wait to get outside in the warm sunshine and earth-scented air.
In the evening, my favorite time in the garden, the light cast is more a gentle glow. I can sit and look out over my small, green, quarter acre dominion, assessing my accomplishments of the day, whether that was cleaning up or installing container gardens. Rob will have shaken a frosty martini for me on a weekend night and the two of us can enjoy each other’s company surrounded by the scent and colors. Then there is autumn, next only to spring in the volume of work. But the temperatures are more accommodating for outdoor work, the process of “tucking-in” more gentle and less frenzied a pace. The squirrels don’t have time for play right now; they are positioning acorns in the lawn in a chess board pattern while a few birch leaves skip across the turf. And compared to spring, even more fleeting. The deep gold of my neighbor’s linden trees, so rich and wonderful, I stop my writing every few minutes to enjoy them. By next week, the leaves will certainly be gone. Another neighbor has a majestic ginkgo tree that displays its very best self in a brilliant yellow for maybe a day or two. It is just about peak right now. Try to enjoy these brief visual harvests while you can.
Some folks don’t do much in the way of fall garden clean-up; instead, they wait on ’til spring. Here is why I don’t recommend that stance and following a list of my best practices:
1. Work load. I might have just put off ’til spring several years back, like when I was 20, but I have learned the garden art of “pacing.” Unless I want to spend the time and money with the chiropractor and take Advil chasers after every meal, I have found I enjoy the garden much more when it doesn’t seem like a fire drill of activity. The way I look at it now is any effort made now is money in the work bank toward next year;
2. I tend not to remember how big some things have grown by the time spring comes. Autumn can be a good time to see what might need to be transplanted or divided. Even if I don’t actually do this now, I can write it down for the spring to-do list;
3. Gets you starting off right in the spring without having to first clean stuff. Two main things: empty, clean and store your garden pottery to avoid losing it against freeze/thaw conditions. Unless they are frost-proof in which case plant it up again! I will have ideas to share on this in another edition. After your final garden day for the season, clean and sharpen all of your tools. Make a list of anything that needs replacing so you will have it ready come spring. You might even find things on the sale rack at the garden center. In which case, stock up now and save some cash;
4. And most importantly, as we appreciate the season of harvest and color, it reminds us why we engage in this garden thing anyway; it is about love. Love for the people with whom we consider special and important enough to share our gardens–not only the space to be in, but what we grow as extensions of that love, whether it be food harvested and meals shared, beautiful flowers, shade cast from a tree under which we sit; love for whole world that we see illustrated in even the smallest piece of the garden understanding it is part of the whole; and last, that we know we are making healthy choices for ourselves and our community large and small by our actions, always growing.
Then find a favorite place to put your feet up and toast the season.