By Chris Cohan
Labor Day is over. Gone is easy downtown parking, back are pedestrians stepping into traffic with reckless abandon. Remember, look both ways and cross at the light, not in between! On the positive side is <Callicarpa>, commonly known as Beauty Bush. It delivers a dazzling display of purple colored small pearl-shaped fruits — rare color and an equally rare display.
Longwood Gardens performed an extensive eight-year-long trial to determine the best Beauty Bush. They evaluated hundreds and determined that <Callicarpa dichotoma> ‘Winterthur’ was the stand out. It blooms on new growth allowing you to prune as aggressively as you wish. If left alone, <Callicarpa> will mature into a graceful 3-foot-wide by 3-foot-tall shrub. The hardy shrub performs well in semi-shade, as a foundation plant or mass for impact. Bees and butterflies like it while deer do not.
Summer is over and so may be your enthusiasm of gardening. Sure, the mildewed phlox and black-spotted roses do not inspire. Yet, asters covered with many flowers rekindle your gardening excitement. Blooms appear to float in the air above modest stalks. Bees and other pollinators happily go from one flower to the next. Asters require minimal care. They are immune to most pests, including deer, and provide much appreciated food for pollinators and fall color.
Sunflowers’ glorious golden globes greet the soft September sunshine. Leave the seed-filled flowers to be consumed by grateful birds. Some will fall and provide next year’s crop. Pink coneflowers and black-eyed Susan work well singly or massed to provide carefree fall color. They are great as cut flowers. Let some flowers go to seeds to provide more plants in the future.
Japanese anemones are justifiably known as windflowers. The slightest breeze causes them to sway seductively. They beckon you to come hither. Their flowers host many happy bumblebees and are rarely bothered by deer.
Butterfly bushes are a vital nectar source, attracting the monarch, swallowtail, snout butterfly, great spangled fritillary, painted lady, common checkered-skipper, and nymphalid butterflies. To ensure a continued source of nectar into October, deadhead to promote more blooms.
On a less enjoyable note, deer are worse than ever. They pose a health and safety threat across the entire community. Lyme disease is no joke. It causes a chronic and debilitating condition. Parents are scared to allow kids to play in their own yards for fear of contracting Lyme disease. Deer regularly cause car accidents and devastate gardens. Whatever happened to municipal leadership on culling herds? Time to approve culling of deer herd.
Your vegetable patch looks like a victim of Hurricane Irma. Triage is the approach. First, plan your work for early morning to beat the heat. Most tomato plants are sloppily cascading outside of hoops, ratty with many yellowing and spotty leaves. Remove. Never compost any tomato plants. Pick fruits. Now yank the obvious weeds. Once done, the second string of weeds will be easier to spy. Go get ’em.
Pick and prepare all but the tiniest leaves of Swish chard, kale, spinach, and beet greens. Have dead or punky plants? Eject. Now cultivate between all rows. Hoe up on beets, turnips, and kale. They will provide greens until frost. Your vegetable patch is looking presentable again. Good job!
Rising up from weeding, your back aches. Time to make a resolution. Next year I shall mulch the vegetable garden. My mother taught me the secret of low-care, high-yield vegetable gardening. This simple practice creates an almost weed-free garden, reduces watering, improves growing conditions, promotes rapid earthworm production, and minimizes cultivation of soil. The secret is The New York Times. This may work with other newspapers, even tabloids. Yet, I prefer All The News That’s Fit To Print.
To create the most well-read garden in town, cover with newspaper, four pages thick. Cut holes for the plants. Top with a few inches of mulch or composted leaves to hold down and disguise the newspaper. As the season progresses instead of throwing away nitrogen rich grass clippings, spread them on top of newspaper. By the end of season, most newspaper will have decomposed, the soil enriched by earthworms and there will be few weeds to deal with. Mothers like Mother Nature do know their stuff.