Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Putting the Gardens to Bed

I'm convinced that beautiful fall colors and a smattering of warm days is the Midwesterner's reward for the long, not so pretty at times, winter. I spent a week in the Finger Lakes region of New York last week enjoying the fall colors (and the wineries), and was greeted with a wet coating of early snow on the return trip. Snow on top of the leaves that hadn't yet fallen from the trees was a bit surreal.

We have yet to have a killing frost here, just a light smattering that rendered the basil useless, and finished off a few of the tender annuals. Apparently we had the same, chilly, unseasonably cold weather last week as New York, so having a few days of high 60s to low 70s, sunny weather, is Indian Summer here, and perfect for cleaning up some of the gardens.

There are several differences between spring and fall garden bed maintenance. First, the smell. The spring gardens smell moist and earthy, rich with the possibility of growth to come. Fall gardens smell like wood smoke, composting leaves, and dried herbs.

In the spring, creaky gardeners who haven't seen sunshine or anything green in many, many months, eagerly trot their rusty winter bodies on chilly, soggy, spring days at the first hint of sunshine for a chance to poke around in the gardens to see signs of new life. Fall gardening is inspired by nice weather; if winter comes to soon and covers the beds before the gardener gets a chance to properly tidy, they will still be there waiting in the spring.

The beds in fall, if properly planted, yield their own kind of beauty in the fall. It pays to plan for some fall color and texture.

The vegetable garden is pretty much spent, save this row of colorful Swiss Chard.

My baby Brussels Sprouts. (America's most hated vegetable: Get over it! If your memories of Brussels Sprouts evoke the smell of Aunt Maude's nursing home on the day after Thanksgiving - they were improperly cooked! Try roasting them with some bacon.)

Usually the zucchini and squash plants have long since been claimed by squash vine borers, a nasty creature that bores a hole in the vine, makes itself at home, and kills the vine. I had two plants still chugging along, and found this baby specimen. I also managed to find a handful of red raspberries.

The birds are definitely feeling the weather change. This noisy flock descended on my neighbor's lawn in an Alfred Hitchcock moment as I was doing my final walk through yesterday.

Another nice day forecasted, which is good, since I am only about half way through the beds. After today they should be in great shape for their winter nap.


  1. I love these photos! I'm impressed with your garden, I had no idea swiss chard would look so beautiful in the garden, it's almost ornamental. I agree with you about the brussels sprout, I think people have not had it prepared properly.

  2. Thanks! I have planted the Chard among the flowers sometimes just because it looks so gorgeous.

    A local shopping plaza also uses them in their edible landscaping - see this post:


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