October 6, 2017

Ready for Fall

Fall is finally in the air.  The autumnal equinox came as scheduled on September 22, but ever since, the calendar has said one thing and the New England weather has spoken something quite different.  We were still picking the last of our luxuriously sweet yellow corn from our garden just last week.
The last gasp of one of our hostas
Now, though, things are changing swiftly.   In our vegetable garden, the corn has now been pulled and the green beans (and the bean beetles – good riddance!) are just a memory.  Zucchini that grew from a flower to a baseball bat in three days now takes a week or longer to become picking size.  Tomatoes continue to ripen but are no longer growing. Conversely, the cool-weather crops – spinach, lettuce, arugula – are hitting their stride.
Suddenly, our garden is blooming
purple, like these asters
Things are still blooming in our garden… almost all of them purple.  Asters, geraniums, vernonia, callicarpa (beautyberry) and aconitum (monkshood), having been nothing but greenery all summer, have come out of nowhere to declare autumn their private domain. The perennial season is going out with a decidedly violet bang.
Most of the trees on the property still have that voluptuous, late summer look but, here and there, the leaves have started to turn – an omen of the color explosion later this month that gives New England its seasonal distinction.  One of our itea ‘Henry Garnet’ got a jump on the season; it is a brilliant red and orange.  Our amelanchier (shadbush) seemingly overnight went from all green to speckled yellow and rust.  A single branch of one of our high-bush blueberries has turned a brilliant red – a semaphore of things to come.
Beautyberry and
geraniums, all purple
The hummingbirds have departed.  Just a week ago they were dive-bombing one another at our feeder in some senseless ‘if-I-can’t-have-it-then-neither-can-you’ ritual that must be programmed into their DNA.  Hummingbirds know when the fat lady is warming up in the wings.
And, almost overnight, the hostas are turning yellow.  If we do nothing, they’ll turn to yellow mush when we get our first frost (though the ten-day forecast shows nothing lower than the mid-40s).  However, we allow our hostas to go out with a semblance of dignity.  This coming week, we’ll cut them to the ground, the better to prevent any bad bugs from overwintering in their foliage.
Aconitum (monkshood)
with perennial ageratum
for a backdrop
Regardless of the weather, the beginning of October begins a series of ‘lasts’ just as early April was the time for ‘firsts’.  The rain barrels that provided supplemental water for our garden all spring and summer will be drained later this month to give our young trees a ‘big gulp’ to ensure their root systems are as full as we can make them before the ground gets too cold to perk water.  The fence around our community garden plot will get taken down because there will be nothing left to tempt two- or four-footed marauders. 

We pick our first luscious macouns last week from this tree
It’s not a melancholy time – far from it.  Apple picking has started and we've already picked our first peck of macouns.  We'll pick at least one more peck before the month is out.  Autumn brings its own excitement in New England.  I’m ready.

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