Change of seasons brings September must-do list
September 9, 2005
I’m watching the sky from a small secret garden, a corner of my deck screened from the world by the dense creamy blooms of a silver lace vine like a lace curtain.As the last pink in the low streamers of clouds above the valley fades to lavender gray and then denim blue, the buzzing of thousands of pollinators feeding in the vine is stilled. Two Canada geese are heading north, away from the thin slice of new moon. Is that a nighthawk? Swallows trawling the sky for their supper are specks over the Roaring Fork River just out of my sight. A couple of bats zigzag overhead at high speed.They’re all part of my greater garden. It is evening and I’m resting, considering the things remaining to be done before winter, making a mental list. How can I possibly get everything done in time?All spring and summer Gerry and I watched the fruit trees. Would they recover from the bears? Would there be a late frost at the critical stage of blossoming? Would we have fruit? Should we supplement the limited irrigation with a good soak from a hose and sprinkler? The trees recovered surprisingly well, and though they now have more “character” than their age warrants, well-timed rains with no killing frosts have given us a good crop of plums, pears and apples. Do the bears have lots of their own fruit and nuts to harvest up the mountain or will they raid us again?Today Gerry picked the pears. The plums need to be picked soon. The apples won’t ripen for awhile, thank goodness, because all this fruit must be prepared and preserved for the winter.There are numerous seedlings and fast spreaders in the border that should be culled to protect less-assertive neighbors. Perennials overtaken by spreading shrubs need to be moved out. Invading grass has to be dug out. Big, floppy plants blocking paths and steps need to be staked and tied.My tender houseplants, summering happily outdoors, are becoming a bit anxious now that the nights are getting longer and cooler. Every one of them must be cleaned up, checked for bugs, carried back into the greenhouse and properly placed. But first, the inside of the greenhouse must be cleaned, tables and racks rearranged, pots, supplies and tools stashed. The so-called automatic sprinkler system needs to be checked and repaired. Luckily, water has been leaking through the concrete floor into Gerry’s auto shop below. We have a date for Sunday to move everything out of the way, clean the floor, and apply a fresh coat of sealer. For once I won’t be racing around frantically trying to get the pot plants into shelter, dirty or not, when the first frost is forecast.Then there is shopping. At the end of the season the nurseries have terrific bargains for the frugal gardener and no pressure from crowds so it’s a good time to ask the normally harried nursery staff questions. Now is an ideal planting time, too, when temperatures are moderating but the soil is warm. I love catalog and Internet shopping for plants, seeds and bulbs, where I can dither and mull things over as long as I like.Bulbs! The first bulb catalogs arrived when the daffodils were blooming, appropriately enough, since I could see what the garden needed and make a note of it. I have studied those bulb catalogs as though I expected a test. You’d think I would know exactly what I want by now. You’d think I’ve had plenty of time to get an order together. You’d be wrong. It’s so easy to get sidetracked; when I picked up Louise Beebe Wilder’s “Adventures with Hardy Bulbs” (out-of-print, but Gerry found me a used copy online), I meant only to look up a certain wild tulip but was immediately immersed in her wonderful prose and opinions. I haven’t ordered a single bulb yet.Have I left anything out? It’s dark now and the air has cooled. Insects make no noise I can hear when they get eaten by a bird or bat, but some creature in the blackness of my garden is making a terrible sound and I shiver. I hope it was a snake eating a vole, not the neighbor’s cat killing a songbird. A garden, like a day, has its dark side.Time to come out of my reverie and go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day. I’ll get started on my list tomorrow.Anna gardens in Basalt with her husband, Gerry, and dog, Maggie. She’d love to hear from you at email@example.com. Please put “Anna’s Garden” in the e-mail subject line.
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