Kachemak Gardener: It’s been a fall to remember

Well now, isn’t this a fall to remember. The colors are lovely but, not to be pessimistic, it doesn’t smell like fall. There isn’t a crispness to the air. There isn’t urgency.

So what to make of it? When the hammer inevitably comes down I want to be ready. I pulled the support systems out from the delphiniums rather than have them frozen in place. I’m cleaning up absolutely all of the tattered annuals. I figure whatever seeds they want to leave behind have been left for next year’s volunteer lovelies. Now that I can see the ground around the perennials I’m weeding.

This long slow decline has enabled me to take time to weed in areas that I have never bothered with. There is a very functional platform adjacent to the tool shed that is the perfect spot to store weird pots, the shredder, fencing, and items I don’t know what to do with or why I even have them but am not ready to send them off. But the weed situation has dominated the area between it and the fence. This area is in view from the afternoon Adirondack chairs. Why haven’t I dealt with this sooner? At the moment it is quite lovely, tidy. The intention is to keep it that way.

The handy little weed burner that keeps the weeds at bay on the slate paths gets a workout early in the season. I use it about twice a week for the first three weeks of the growing season and then not much after that. But now, with this warm gentle fall, the johnny-jump-ups that thrive between the stones are showing so I made quick work of them. Gone. Better now than next spring when everything is happening at once.

The raspberries are still producing. We have enough in the freezer; jam has been made. Now we just stand out there and eat berries. Can’t complain about that. Don’t cut them back until next spring. Even when the canes are looking dead they are adding nutrition to the root mass. Leave well enough alone until spring.

The broccoli has been pulled, chopped and put in the compost. The last two gleanings did not produce enough for a meal so I figured enough was enough. The Brussels sprouts are gorgeous but I’m not in any hurry to bring them in. The slugs would like to make quick work of them but I refuse to share and sprinkle Sluggo along the paths to deter them. The artichokes are strange this year, small and tulip shaped although tasty.

The greenhouse is completely empty. It feels strange. The inside walls are all washed, the bins are full of new compost, all ready for the next growing season.

The tools will need to be cleaned, oil the handles. I’m waiting on this chore; there is still work for us.

Last year I told myself that the garden needed more fall color but didn’t act on it. I thought last year’s gentle fall was a fluke. But this one is beating the odds, and there still isn’t enough fall color. Something to think about and plan for this winter.

Have you planted bulbs? Most important is the garlic. I fuss and fret about this every year. If I fall plant, which will happen this year, I worry that it will rot if it rains forever. If I don’t get it in soon enough it may freeze and I will have missed my chance. My answer has been to fall and spring plant. The majority goes in about now, then come spring, I’ll start another batch in the greenhouse and set out the starts. The spring planted bulbs are somewhat smaller.

Laura Patty is experimenting with her garlic crop. Some will go in the ground and some into a planter on the deck. She and I are at about the same elevation (mine is 396 feet) so we don’t need to jump through hoops to mulch. I like to recycle Christmas tree boughs on the garlic bed. The spruce allows air to circulate. Actually I like spruce boughs for all the mulching needs. Its too early now but give this some thought as the winter progresses. Its the freeze/thaw cycle that can do the damage.

Gardening isn’t over. Keep moving along; there seems to be always and forever weeds to pull, edges to trim, and dreams to dream.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener and has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.

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