October cleanup

October cleanup.

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We had 1 1/2″ of rain the first of October, following 1 1/2″ the last of September. Yesterday, October 27, another 1 1/2″ fell, making 3″ of rain for October. We still have an 8″ rain deficit for the year, according to Channel 2 weather reports. The rain yesterday was the remnants of Hurricane Patricia. Although the hurricane wreaked havoc in many areas of Mexico and the U.S., it gave our area nothing but gentle rain yesterday and today an unseasonably warm and blustery fall day, which is wonderful. Magnificent fall colors are represented above by the Japanese maple tree in the gardens. It may not be native, but it sure is pretty.

Light frosts on the nights of October 17 and 18 ended summer garden production and led to a timely cleanup of the vegetable garden. The photos above are before and after shots of the cleanup. At left can be seen dead tomato and pepper vines. At right are serenely empty beds for the most part with a few covered beds harboring the fall garden of lettuce, kale, chard, arugula, and carrots. Also in the fall garden, under layers of salt hay, are 72 garlic cloves in 2 raised beds, and 9 Egyptian walking onions bulblets in another raised bed. I’ve written about planting these alliums in other recent posts.

Frankly, it’s a relief to have the tomato and pepper plants cleaned up and sent to curbside for municipal pickup. Along with the summer squash plants. They are all but a memory and lots of lovely produce in Mason jars on the shelves of my pantry, uh, upright freezer. Lots of good stuff for the winter cooking.

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October cleanup now must concentrate on the leaves. I like to mow leaves with the mulching mower, bagging them with a nice mixture of grass and clover for the compost pile. There are not as many leaves this fall because the big old sugar maple tree died, was cut down, and is serving as wood chip mulch for many beds in the gardens. Reminds me of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. Above can be seen the huge magnolia leaves now on the ground with just a smattering of Japanese maple leaves. In addition to the leaves and grass mixture in the compost piles, I’ve also started a pile of leaves for leaf mold, which I’m told takes multiple years to bring to perfection, but that it has many uses. More about the leaf mold project in later posts.

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The old maple tree stump will be with us for many years, I fear, since I’m averse to spending money to have it ground out. See photo above. I’m thinking, maybe, next spring, a potted geranium on the stump surrounded by several pink flamingos might be just the thing. What do you think.

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The apple tree stump, left over from the 2011 October snowstorm that toppled the old apple tree, has a more aesthetic outcome after 4 years. Above is its remaining presence, which is nurturing a lovely fungus and is sheltered by several large coneflowers. In summer, the stump is barely noticeable. What with the red Japanese maple leaves scattered about this fall, it looks pretty. Don’t you think. Maybe something equally interesting will transpire with the maple tree stump.

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Several projects have been accomplished in my garden this fall. I’ve written about the native eastern red cedar tree in the post September renewal. I hope to write another post about it this winter. Two mountain laurels and a swamp azalea, seen in the photo above, were transplanted into an area closer to our living spaces in the garden. The outdoor thermometer was also moved closer to the house for winter viewing. I like this new arrangement and hope the mountain laurels and swamp azalea, a native, by the way, will thrive with more attention paid to them.

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A little fig tree was planted out last summer after spending 3 winters on the enclosed front porch in ever larger containers. I bought a cover for it for the winter, as can be seen in photo at right. My neighbor puts a trash can upside down on her fig plant for the winter. I might try that too when the  temps get really low. Fresh figs are a delicious summer treat and well worth the effort of keeping the little fig tree warm and sheltered in winter.

2 American holly trees (Ilex opaca “Dan Fenton”) were mail-ordered from RareFind Nursery, which specializes in native plants. They aren’t big–maybe 2′ high. $15 each. We would have spent bigger bucks on larger trees, but the native hollies are not easy to find. So rather than waiting to find bigger trees and letting another fall go by without planting trees in a particular area of the garden, we decided to plant the little ones, which can be transplanted to another area if we are so lucky as to find larger “Dan Fentons” in the spring, but in the meantime, they can be settling in and starting to grow. I bought some little dogwoods (Cornus florida) several years ago, about 6″ high. They are now taller than I am, so it’s best to not wait. Little trees settle in and start to grow quickly. Photos of the new “Dan Fenton” holly trees can be seen above. Sure enough, they don’t look like much just now. But you just wait. By the way, “Dan Fentons” are female holly trees. Go figure.

 

A cold frame was purchased this fall and installed close to the deck door. Just now, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, peppermint, and cilantro are thriving within. I know the cilantro cannot survive the winter, but I’m betting on the rest to make it through if I remember to take care of them. Photos of the cold frame closed and open can be seen above.

Daisy, my constant garden companion, continues to watch for friends to walk by so she can greet them and get some petting, as you can see at left above. With her favorite orange ball by her side, she enjoys invigorating fall weather, as you can see at right above. Daisy is 4 years old now. She’s not a puppy any longer, but she absolutely enjoys everything life has to offer. Particularly fall walks, which we are now organizing into our fall schedule. Walks are good for Daisy. Good for me too.

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October cleanup. It’s easier this year than it’s ever been before. Am I getting more organized. Maybe. Above is a photo of the compost piles and outdoor storage area. Could be better organized, I suppose, but it’s not terrible.

I’m rather looking forward to more good indoor winter time to read and write. Hope the winter brings good snow, not too much, and good cold weather, but not too much. Followed by another wonderful spring and summer, with a little more rain, please.

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