I am putting my garden to bed. Although I know many gardeners who wait until spring to clear out spent annuals and perennials, I prefer to do this in the fall. April finds me busy hardening off new seedlings, so distracted by the promise of the new plants in my sunroom and those for sale at the garden center that I couldn’t possibly take the time to fuss over the dried stalks from last year.
Clearing the old plants from the gardens now makes my next task easier; Autumn is the ideal time for me to top dress the beds with the organic matter which is so vital to healthy soils. Moving among the stubs of last year’s beauty, I can easily spread my homemade compost, a layer of seaweed, or some composted manure.
To those who dread the coming of winter, I recommend that they take up gardening. Most gardeners I know welcome the first frost; it is a break in the action, the seventh-inning stretch. But instead of preceding the end of the game, the first dips in temperature signal a return to home plate, a pause just long enough to savor the beginning of another round.
My friend Carol gardens in Gainsville, Florida. I am often jealous that she harvests her first strawberries in March, and the sweet corn in June. She is able to pick fruits from her yard that I can only pluck from the supermarket shelves. When Carol thinks about plants to provide winter interest, she is deciding whether to plant pansies or snapdragons.
Envy is a two-way street, however, and Carol covets a climate where there is a built-in breather. Because she can garden year-round, there is always something that needs doing in her yard. It often becomes her “Guilt-Garden” she tells me.
In January, the plants which will draw my attention will be berry-laden holly, or a snow-covered clump of bamboo. My garden will be appreciated from a cozy armchair, a cup of tea in my hand, and a stack of seed and plant catalogs on my lap. My head will be filled with plans and improbable visions, and my list will be titled “must-have” instead of “must-do.”
Many of my neighbors dread the coming season of cold; some of them even flee to warmer climates, returning only when spring has it’s feet firmly planted here on Cape Cod. Although I understand the pleasure that they take in being always able to leave the house without a coat, I don’t share the desire to leave.
I am a gardener and winter is coming. I can hardly wait.