The Call of the Outdoors
Hey, who turned out the lights?!
Shorter days don’t lessen gardeners’ enthusiasm to be outside. We just have less daylight in which to complete our chores. Fall is a wonderful time to be outdoors and get some good, old-fashioned aerobic exercise. The air is invigorating, the sky full of color, and the late-day lighting dramatic. Forget being a screen-staring sports spectator. Be a garden gladiator.
• Clean and put the patio furniture away.
• Clean the gutters, again. They’ll often be clogged with rich, decomposing soil, which you should cast on garden beds.
• Remove window A/C units. Brush windowsills clean and WD-40 the storm window tracks. Remove, wash, dry, and replace filters. If the units are old, plan on buying new, lighter, energy-star replacements next spring. Your back will appreciate the upgrade and your energy bill will go down…well, a pinch.
• Clean all tools of loose soil. Sharpen all blades and shovel points. Run an oiled rag over metal parts to keep from rusting. Sand any rough-wood edges smooth. Make note of any tools that need replacing. Spring will be here before you know it.
• Remove any weeds from your vegetable patch. Dispose of tomatoes plants, roots, and any fallen leaves to reduce soil infection. Cut all other dead or fading veggies to the ground, leaving roots to decompose into the soil.
• If you have a mulch pile, transfer most of it to the vegetable patch. Then turn that sweet black compost into vegetable bed soil.
• What, you don’t have a compost pile? Now is the time to start. Find a place and begin layering garden and kitchen plant waste with soil. Keep layering and occasionally turn. Next spring — voilà — you will have black gold that your plants will love.
• The winds of fall dry out soil. So, keep up the watering, especially for any newer plantings.
• If the soil is bare, top-dress with free mulch, which is what you will have an abundance of of when you mulch-mow those fallen leaves. Mulching leaves reduces them to 1/25 of their size. The smaller shredded leaves decompose quickly, returning much-needed nutrients to your lawn and garden beds. Just think of all the time you saved raking, packing, and carting leaves to the curb, as well as the fact that you reduced your carbon footprint.
• Remember our feathered friends. Keep bird feeders stocked and birdbaths filled.
• After carving pumpkins, cast the slimy seeds for birds and others to dine on. If you have leftover whole pumpkins, crack open and leave in garden as well.
• Hydrangeas need protection from overeager clippers. Many an innocent gardener will prune back hydrangea, unwarily removing next year’s buds. When in doubt, do not prune. Next year, only hydrangeas that bloom on new wood or the ever-blooming Endless Summer series.
The sun is setting, your chores are completed, and you can hang up your tools and head inside. It is now time to sit down and put your feet up. There is nothing more satisfying than completing a full day of outdoor work.