Be-A-Better-Gardener | Thomas Christopher: Celebrate fall with some free workshops

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The gardening year has a distinct, if irregular, rhythm. The work never really stops — there are things to be done in the garden even in mid-winter — but it waxes and wanes with the seasons. Spring brings a rush of tasks that must be completed all at once. Summer can be hectic, too, what with watering, weeding and dealing with pests. Early fall brings a bit of a respite, though, as the harvest winds down. By the end of September, my wife, Suzanne, and I have made our jellies and pickles, dug and braided the onions and garlic, and stored a year's-worth of green beans and tomato sauce in the chest freezer. By Columbus Day weekend, there's time to catch our breath, pause and explore new directions for next year.

Conveniently, Columbus Day weekend is also the date of one of this region's most enjoyable means of exploring new departures in gardening. That's the Berkshire Botanical Garden's annual Harvest Festival held on Oct. 6 and 7. This celebration of the season includes activities and attractions aimed at the whole family, from hay rides and puppet shows to folk musicians, crafts vendors, and plant and tag sales. It also includes a major educational component, with talks and workshops by experts introducing various new departures in gardening.

If, for example, you aren't growing your own garlic, you should be. There's no vegetable crop that is easier to raise or that can have a bigger, more beneficial impact on your cuisine and your health. Best of all, garlic is one of the most pest-resistant of vegetables, practically fool-proof against rabbits, woodchucks and deer. If you want to know more, you really should join Master Gardener Ron Kujawski at the Harvest Festival for his talk, "Growing Garlic." at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6.

Pollinators are much in the news these days, with conscientious gardeners wondering what they can do to bolster their thinning ranks. One mighty blow you can strike for pollinators is to establish your own hive of honeybees. Learn how it's done by attending a workshop "Beekeeping in the Backyard," taught by BBG Education Director Chris Wellens, at 2 p.m. on both Oct. 6 and 7.

Finally, early October is just before the peak of the cider-making season. New England's iconic fall beverage, this is mostly enjoyed fresh as "sweet cider" today, though there has been something of a revival in recent years in the fermentation and bottling of "hard cider." This, of course, was once one of our region's leading fall traditions, with different regions cultivating different apples to create their own characteristic vintages. At 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 7, historian Dennis Picard will address the subject of "Traditional New England Cider Making," a great opportunity to learn from an expert.

Additional workshop topics include cheese making, heirloom apple tasting, and how to make healthy lunchbox snacks and fruit leathers. All workshops are free and are offered in the Garden's Center House classroom. For a complete schedule, visit berkshirebotanical.org.

Be-a-Better-Gardener is a community service of Berkshire Botanical Garden, located in Stockbridge. Thomas Christopher is the co-author of "Garden Revolution" (Timber press, 2016) and is a volunteer at Berkshire Botanical Garden. berkshirebotanical.org.



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