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Garden Lifestyle

Autumn Meanderings: Dry in the South, Wet in the North

Fall is in the air throughout the country--it might be cooler and wetter in the Northeast and dry in our southern states--however it is harvest season wherever you are.

  • A sure sign of fall, pineapple sage is the last plant to bloom in my garden. Generally, it buds in September and the hummingbirds seem to wait around for it to bloom.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Winter squash have matured and are waiting to be harvested.
  • The milkweed pods are open and the wind scatters the down which is attached to their seed pods.
  • American Beauty Berry is a showy autumn perennial plant. If harvested before frost, and brought indoors, the berries will not drop and will look good in arrangements. If left outside, the birds and squirrels will enjoy them.
  • Hopefully, the habaneros will have time to ripen before the first frost comes. Otherwise, I will cover them with a sheet or floating row cover on cold nights and uncover them during the day so the sun will help them mature.
  • These tall purple asters are a pleasant addition to the fall border; mine reach from 4 to 6-feet in height.
  • While cutting firewood, we felled a tree covered with bittersweet. Sometimes, it is too high up to reach. I love to make wreaths from this vine covered with bright orange and yellow berries. Keep it out in the woods as it can become invasive.
  • Loosely twined, rustic bittersweet wreath.

Well, I am back from about a month in the Ozarks, where I worked at and attended the Fall Harvest Fall Festival at the Ozark Folk Center; participated in “Becoming an Outdoors Woman in Arkansas”; showed my mom and sisters how beautiful the mountains are there—the trees and native shrubs are just starting to change to the fall colors; painted my friend Tina Wilcox’s house; worked and played with some fun folks; hauled donkeys back and forth, and listened to some great music, just to mention a few things…

A number of herbies traveled from all over the country to attend the event and many of them were from Texas, nearby Arkansas and Missouri and all of them lamented the lack of rain in their southern climes. Some are losing big old trees and unless gardens were watered, only the strong plants have survived the drought. It is dry, dry, dry.

On the other hand, those of us from the East coast and northern states, have had so much rain, our gardens were soggy and couldn’t be walked in for the past few months. Tomatoes split on the vine from too much water and summer vegetables and herbs like basil, sat and pouted.

Too much, or not enough—these are the trials and tribulations of we gardeners. However, most of us are not about to give up. Every new year, we dream and have hopes and plans for the best garden ever. And then by the end of the growing season, this time of year, we are overrun with weeds and a bit weary of constant harvesting and preserving. This is the time of year to give thanks for the bounty gathered and start to tidy up the garden. Before we know it, we’ll be raking and doing wood chores and sitting by the stove with our 2012 catalogues (which are already starting to arrive and it isn’t even Halloween yet!)

The real impetus—the first frost—will send us scurrying to pick the last of the peppers, grab the green tomatoes and cut the basil back one final time. Or cover them with floating row covers to extend the season as long as possible. Floating row cover comes in a number of thicknesses and I use a heavy grade on the baby greens, as well as the brassicas, kale, chard and hardier herbs like parsley and cilantro. If I cover these crops now, I can probably harvest through November in my Mid-Atlantic zone 7 garden. In years past, I have even lifted snow-covered row cover in December and harvested parsley and some of the sweetest kale that I have ever eaten.  

While here at home, I am now sleeping under two or three blankets at night and wearing sweatshirts in the morning and evening, I am about to head for Texas, where I have been told it is still hot down there and to bring my summer clothes.

Next week, I will be in San Antonio, meetin’ up with gardeners and herbal enthusiasts and spreading the herbal word. My schedule is as follows:

~ Thursday, October 13, 6:30 pm—Garden Center, San Antonio—Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Herbs for the San Antonio Herb Society www.sanantonioherbs.org

~ Friday, October 14, 9 am—KABB-TV [email protected]”—brief segment on herbs

~ Saturday, October 15, 9 to 5 pm—San Antonio Herb Market 20th Annual Festival, Pearl Farmers’ Market—11:30 am The Mediterranean Herbs and 1 pm Herbs for Health https://www.sanantonioherbmarket.org/

Hope to see you there or happy gardening at home!

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