Typically, by the beginning of November, the gardening season has wound down to the point where I feel comfortable closing the last chapter of the Berkshire Garden Journal for the year. (Was that a sigh of relief I just heard?)
However, the mild weather this fall has extended the season; leaving gardeners with a list of tasks so long I don't know where to begin. (Hmm. I'm sure that sound was a groan.) Let's start with these:
n Keep weeding. Many weeds, including lamb's quarters, have mature seed heads now. One weed allowed to drop its seeds adds up to hundreds of new weeds to be pulled, hoed, or cursed at next year. It's part of the new math.
n Plant any spring flowering bulbs yet to be planted; get them into the ground as soon as possible since they need time to develop roots before the soil freezes.
n Remove fallen leaves from groundcovers to reduce risk that matted leaves will suffocate these plants, or create a moist environment that favors development of plant diseases.
n Keep mowing as grass is still growing. Set cutting height at two inches; this height prevents grass from matting during winter and being infected by snow mold fungi. If you've been mowing at 3 inches or higher, gradually reduce cutting height to two inches over the next few mowings.
n Mix wood ash with compost and spread a one quarter-inch layer over the lawn and rake it. This combination makes a good fall fertilizer for grass.
n Construct a raised bed in the vegetable garden by mounding soil to create a berm that is 3 or 4 feet wide, 8 inches high, and as long as you want. Place hoops made of flexible PVC pipe over the raised bed, inserting ends of the pipes into the soil or over foot-long sections of rebar that have been pushed into the ground. Then, sow leftover seeds of spinach and other leafy greens. Finally, cover the hoops with a sheet of clear plastic or row cover. You should be able to get a crop of greens later this year.
n Put leftover seed packets in a canning jar or freezer bag, along with a packet of desiccant gel or homemade desiccant packet, and store them in a cool location. To make a desiccant packet, put two tablespoons of rice or powdered milk on a couple of sheets of facial tissue and tie this into a bundle. The desiccant absorbs any moisture in the jar or plastic bag. Moisture will cause seed to lose viability in storage.
n Place cylinders of fine mesh wire around the trunks of fruit trees and young thin-bark trees to keep mice and rabbits from gnawing on the bark. Cut down any tall grass around the trunks as well. Tall grass makes a good hiding place for mice, and for Waldo.
n Take a stroll around the garden, along the roadway, or through the woods to grandma's house and look for seed pods, seed heads, acorns, evergreen fern fronds, vines, dried grasses, pine cones, beer cans (oops, skip that one), and other natural materials that can be used for a Thanksgiving centerpiece and other holiday decorations.
n Get out your garden notebook, put on your thinking cap -- the one with the little propeller on top -- and write down your observations on what plants looked great in the flower garden, which vegetable varieties performed well, which ones didn't, and what pests and diseases took a liking to your plants.
The list of tasks is longer, but I'll stop now and close the Journal for 2013. (That sounded like a cheer!). If the affable editors at The Big Raptor, a.k.a. The Eagle, can tolerate these rambles for another year, the Journal will resume next spring. In the meantime, have a healthy, happy and productive autumn and winter.