October 31, 2013

A Gardener's Work Is Never Done

Yesterday morning I was awakened at 5:35 a.m. when our cat walked into our bedroom and let out a single, very loud ‘meow’.  The cat then went downstairs where it emitted multiple noises that sounded for all the world like a cement mixer missing one or more ball bearings.
Our cat is not normally so talkative, so we put on our robes and went downstairs to see what had upset our normally (except at mealtime) placid pet.  The answer was immediately obvious: outside our front door, two deer were sizing up our holly bushes as a breakfast entrée.
Welcome to the gardener’s world, where the end of summer and the growing season are just pencil marks on a continuum of chores that span the year.  I categorize those chore into four baskets:  things we don’t know we have to do until reality slaps us upside the head and tells us we better do them ‘now’; things we put off doing during the summer because it was too damned hot; things that you can’t hurry; and things that need to get done, and autumn just seems like the right time of year to do them.
You do not want to see these on
your doorstep.
For example, yesterday’s meowing cat begat an hour of spraying every evergreen in our garden with a nasty commercial concoction of putrefied eggs and garlic and a red-circled reminder on our calendar to repeat the process in six weeks.  That’s a prime example of a chore that kind of sneaks up on you.  Spraying is second nature while the garden is in its full flower.  It takes a couple of tick-bearing ruminants on your doorstep to drive home the reminder than deer repellent needs to be applied even after the tastiest morsels are history.
This rock border project was
saved for cooler weather.
The late autumn is also when projects that were put in abeyance because of the summer’s heat come home to roost.  We had a portion of our driveway repaved in July.  Now that the weather is cooler, we are re-installing a rock drainage border around the driveway.  It sounds like a simple task until you consider that the contractor performing the repaving work made no effort to preserve our earlier border.  As a result, new drainage channels must be created, shaped and filled with rocks that have sat in crates for several months.  Is it a gardening project?  Absolutely.  The drainage borders protect the gardens that surround the driveway from rainwater that would otherwise wash those gardens away.
Taking down the gardens in the autumn is a gradual process that requires respect of both nature and reality, and so stretches well beyond the end of Daylight Savings Time.  A large bed of daylilies was cut down in late September when the foliage yellowed.  Honeybees, however, still feasted on the asters that were interspersed among the daylilies. And so that part of the cleanup was put off.  Now that the asters have passed, I am going around dutifully completing that part of the project.
These grasses are in their glory
right now.  Why cut them down?
We also have tall grasses that come into their glory in October and November.  They wave in the breeze at the front of our property and are impervious to frost.  Cutting them down early would be senseless.  But the first snow of the season will leave them looking disheveled and forlorn. As soon as that first snow of the season has fallen and melted, those grasses will need to come down.
Finally, late autumn is also the time for those projects on the ‘long term’ list.  Several years ago, I insisted that a part of the back of our property be cultivated as ‘Seedeaters’ Heaven’, a stand of tall rudbeckia, hellenium and other plants that would provide a wealth of seeds for the avians that keep down the insect population of our garden. 
It was a great and noble idea in theory.  In practice, it never looked good and quickly became an overgrown mess filled with weeds and unwanted interlopers.  Now that the days are cool, my responsibility is to grub out the area so that it can be replanted more sensibly.
In undertaking these projects, we race against the calendar. Sometime in November or December, it will be too cold to work outside and the days will be too short to get work done.  When that happens, we throw in the towel and retreat indoors to contemplate seed catalogs for the 2014 season.

But not, of course, until I’ve split enough wood to get through the New Year.

1 comment:

  1. And I believed the story that the shape of the holly leaves was enough to deter animals from reaching in for the berries. No wonder we had no berries past Christmas! We assumed it was the tribe of wild turkeys that got them.
    Rick just finished stacking three cord...