Category Archives: Fall Tasks

Misconseptions about Wildlife Corridors

hemlock bed 11

 

 

Talking with a colleague in the Landscaping and Gardening business, I was shocked to hear that she though the the term “Wildlife Corridors” meant that it was required to be planted with only native plants.  But the term refers to creating a highway of vegetation connecting garden beds or enlarging existing ones to assist small mammals, reptiles and insects to move safely though the land for the purpose of finding food, shelter and reproduce. In a sense expanding their habitats.

In the photo above, I have an example of an existing bed in my on garden. The Canadian Hemlocks planted twenty years ago and heavily shaded by many oak trees next door, have become very thin in the bottom and no longer provide the privacy screen they were originally planted to achieve.  I see this as a perfect opportunity to enlarge and add plantings for my benefit and to help biodiversity.

hemlock bed 21

Follow the guide lines in my 2009 post: creating a new planting bed. Determine the space to use, layer with newspaper to kill the grass, wet paper so it stays in place and add mulch (here I used leaf mulch created from last years leaf collection) and presto!

hemlock bed 31

 

New planting area ready and marked.  I will trim the hemlocks a bit in the spring so the shrubs will be outside the drip line. In this case I have chosen Aesculus parviflora or Bottlebrush Buckeye, very shade tolerant, large and just dense and tall enough to provide the needed privacy in two or three years depending on the size planted. And Yes, this is a native shrub that is also deer resistant!

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Albert Einstein

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Building a Vegetable Garden

After years of resisting the urge to grow my own vegetables, I finally decided it was time to take the first step.  To me, with already 3/4 of an acre of gardens, the commitment seemed daunting.  I guess the recent reports of contaminated fruit and vegetables from around the country and the knowledge that produce that has been transported great distances and sit in warehouses and store shelves could not be as nutritious or taste as good as something you pick that day, were the convincing factors that prompted me to get started.  Have you ever taken a bite into a carrot just pulled from the soil?  It is heavenly:  flavorful, crisp and sweet… those are the thoughts that have motivated me.

And so the project has started.  The decision to build raised beds was made after careful consideration of the site:  It is a fairly laveled and sunny parcel but it is at the bottom of a moderate hill so it tends to be a wet spot.  With raised beds it is possible to control drainage and soil quality.  Eight boxes, made of 10″x2″ cedar or non-treated wood,  ranging in size from 8’x4′, 6’x4′, and 4’x4′, with three feet of space all around.  I lined them with 10 ply newspaper layers to kill the grass only inside the boxes for now.  Here is how they look after 2″ of compost went in.

Next, they are going to be filled with mushroom manure and will sit for the winter.  In my area deer are very active at this time of the year and all winter, so planting anything on the boxes before the fence goes in,

will be like inviting them to keep on coming.  The plan is to build a fence all around the beds very early in spring before the planting season starts.

So, October was spent putting one garden to bed and starting a big project for the next growing season.  I love working outside on the crisp days of autumn.  I feel like if I could hold on to the light of day and make it last as long as I can, winter will delay, we know that will not happen, but I used the time well:   Compost piles were harvested to start the vegetable boxes and make room for the mulched leaves and all the scraps from the perennial gardens that will turn into soil amendments for the beds next fall.  Perennials were divided and replanted and after getting great deals at some of the local nurseries, new shrubs purchased and planted.

“Open your eyes that you may see the wonder that around you lies; it will enrich your every day and make you glad and kind and wise”   -Emma Boge Whisenand-

 

 

Autumn joys and chores

Sitting outside in the balmy weather, I watched as leaves fell like a magical golden shower.  There was a specific sound too,  like hundreds of whisperings being carried past me by the wind.  Truly one of those quiet moments that happen so unexpectedly in the garden.  I had to shake myself to focus on the myriad of chores that come with the season.

Enlarging and widening perennial and shrub beds.  See a super easy way to get started here.  In shrub and perennial beds specially, this allows more room to accommodate for naturally growing shrubs.  It is also a very good thing to make your beds larger and diminish the amount of lawn.  Wildlife benefit from a variety of plants and rely on the food and shelter they provide.  I call large beds like these, ‘wildlife corridors’ as they are the highways that allow species to move thru the garden in the safety of cover from predators.

Houseplants are now ready to come back inside.  Here are some steps to follow before you bring them in.  I will add, it is better to bring them in before the heat is turned on inside.  This will reduce the shock of the change in their environment.

Recycle those leaves!  What a great resource nature provides, free!  If you have a large garden, these bounty can save you on compost, mulch, and plants. With a mulching mower, my husband runs over most of the leaves in the lawn.  I then collect all that is left and place then in my compost pile.  They are a good amendment for the soil, can be used as leaf mulch, or after they are shredded, can be left on the shrub beds for the winter just as nature intended.  By spring add mulch right on top for a more uniform neat look.  I have been doing this for some time as I write about it here

 

“A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart.”  ~Hal Borland

 

Suffering from Gardening Withdrawal.

There was flurry of activity to finish the last fall chores before this cold frigid weather set in.  New beds were prepared and mulched,  more shrubs and perennials planted and bulbs set in the ground.  Compost spread, a great bounty of leaves mulched and raked back into the beds, hoses and all garden accessories  and tools put away for the winter…  Phew!  That certainly was a lot of work, which for us gardeners does not “feel” like work, of course.  Instead, I felt toned and strong after hours in the sunny but cool fall air, watching as nature put out its last hurrah before the inevitable winter slumber.

Withdrawal, my friends, is far worse.  I look outside now and feel that, in the space of a couple of weeks, we have been transported to a frigid inhospitable planet.  Outside, a frozen landscape.  the weather report is for several days of below freezing temperatures and several inches of snow…

It is an adjustment, but on the other hand, I now have more time to read, go thru the new offerings of magazines and catalogues and more importantly, plan new projects for the year ahead.  Dream on!

“Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do – or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so.” ~Stanley Crawford

 

 

Leaf Collection

This is how our street looks for most of the month of October and November.  This is 300 feet of collected leaves from just two yards.  The township comes by two or three times during the season and picks them up in huge trucks.

This year, I am proud to say I did not put out any leaves for the township to pick up.  Instead, we went  over the whole lot with our mulching mower.  It took my husband three mowings to get the bulk of the leaves mulched.  I then used my electric blower to collect some of them for my compost bin. This is a wonderful addition to the soil or a light mulch for flower beds.  All those mulched leaves near shrub and flower beds,  I simply blew right into my shrub beds to cover up the soil during the winter.  By mulching them first, they will not become and impenetrable mat and allow air and water to reach the soil, they also absorb water to be released slowly and keep the soil protected.  Just as nature intended.

“I have never had so many ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden” John Erskine

Perennials in fall

It is sad to see the perennials turn yellow and enter dormancy.  I keep looking outside knowing that the cleanup must begin.  Hostas, Ferns and Peonies are all yellowing.  I would like to collect the foliage before it turns completely brown and add all of it to my compost pile. While the leaves are still green, the nitrogen and water content are higher and will help balance the carbon rich compost pile. The large leaves of Hostas and stems of Peonies may need to be cut into smaller pieces, in fact, I believe that the pile benefits from all materials being chopped a bit.  I keep adding to the pile and turning.  If it is dry, a good watering helps move things along.  Oh, just think of the wonderful composted soil I will collect in the spring!  Black gold!

We still have a window for planting trees and shrubs. There is time until the hard frost sets in, for the roots to develop into the soil before they enter dormancy. It is important to cover each planting with a generous amount of mulch and give it a couple of deep waterings a week until frost.

“Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn”.  ~Elizabeth Lawrence

September in the Garden

The weather has turned cooler in the last couple of weeks, and the days are now almost as long as our nights. From now until the end of December, every day will be about three minutes shorter. Plants start to give away their green color and their leaves increasingly reward us with brilliant colors. The products of photosynthesis  are absorbed down into the roots as the plants store their carbohydrates for the winter.  This is also why it is a good time to plant trees.  There is still time until the ground freezes,  and this will allow trees to establish their roots before dormancy.

The perennial garden will benefit from a covering of mulch, especially around plants that tend to heave from the freeze-and-thaw cycle, such as ferns, heucheras and geraniums.  Seed heads and grasses add winter interest to the border under the cover of snow  and also provide food and shelter for wildlife.  All other dying foliage, such as that of hostas and peonies should be removed and added to the compost pile.