I do believe Fall is the busiest season in the garden. There is plenty to do but the weather typically makes it very pleasant to do them.
As I’d mentioned last week, I’ve already taken care of some big tasks. But those were specific to my garden. The comprehensive list below is one that should generally serve all gardens. Get cracking!
Things To Do In October
1. Yes, weeding continues!
2. Time to plant perennials and trees. Give a good dose of compost to each. Water regularly. Perennials already in place can be divided and planted out as well.
3. Cut back all spent plants except what is needed for seasonal interest and feeding wildlife.
4. Collect seeds. Store in labeled envelopes in a cool, dry space.
5. Last call to root cuttings of geraniums, coleus, rosemary etc.,
6. Get all pots of tender perennials into clean greenhouse or other winter shelters. Wash plants and pots thoroughly first – minimizes pest infestation.
7. Plant bulbs as weather gets consistently cooler. Bulbs can be planted until soil freezes solid.
8. Rake leaves where necessary. Add to compost pile or deposit in woods. Otherwise, let fallen leaves be to provide shelter to critters and protect soil. The leaves will eventually break down to enrich the soil.
9. Give compost heap a good stir.
10 Clean out vegetable garden except for cool weather plants that are still producing. Apply several inches of compost on cleared beds. Plant green manure to enrich the soil – optional.
11. Clean and put away (or cover) outdoor furniture.
12. Check what needs repairing, repainting, replacing and get to it!
13. Lift tender bulbs, corms and tubers such dahlias, cannas etc.,. Store in dry, frost-free place. If grown in pots, simply cut down the plant and move the pots into a sheltered space like a garage or basement – water occasionally through the winter just to prevent desiccation of the tubers. In spring, bring pots outside, feed them well and kick start the growth.
14. Drain and close all outdoor water faucets. Empty rain barrel and hoses. Store.
15 Clean all equipment and tools. Store neatly. Get blades and such sharpened.
16. As temperatures plummet, protect tender shrubs and immovable frost sensitive pots and statuary. I cover the former with burlap and for the latter, I first cover with sturdy plastic and then use burlap so it looks halfway decent.
17. Remove suckers from ornamental and fruit trees. Prune roses and wisteria. Remove dead and decaying limbs from all plants.
18. Fill up bird feeders. Keep them filled through the winter. Put up nest boxes for the spring.
19. Get into the autumnal spirit – fill window boxes and urns with seasonal plants and produce.
20. Bring in flowers like hydrangea, seed heads and foliage for seasonal themed arrangements.
21. Take time to enjoy the fall colors and beauty. This is a particularly lovely season.
Fall work in the garden is well underway. The mild weather last week belied the season change. But it actually helped me get a few big chores done – action items which can be onerous when performed in the cold. First, the espaliers of fruit trees got a good pruning. Looks much smarter now and the trees are ready to bear forth next spring. Fingers crossed.
The second big task was to completely redo the handkerchief front lawn. If you recall, this past spring, reseeding was done with Eco-Grass as a trial. This grass is hardy, sends down deep roots and expected to do better than the usual lawn grass. It is meant for slightly higher hardiness zones than mine. But, I wanted to see if I could make it work. The result was not a great success.
As you know, I am not after pristine, mono-cultured lawns. This small area needs, by design, to be a green foreground to the beds of spring bulbs and spring/summer perennials that make splashes of happy colors. ‘Weeds’ such as clover, buttercups. plantain etc., are welcome – they feed helpful creatures. However, the Eco-Grass struggled and looked ragged. So it was decided to remove all of the Eco-grass and other wild growth that had sprung up.
In order to be proper about it, a (rented) sod cutter was used to completely and thoroughly cut and lift up the grass by the roots. This is a big task but the machine really did a great job. Following this step, a good, thick layer of top soil was added on top of which was applied a healthy dose of compost. Finally, grass seeds were thickly applied to encourage a well knit growth that would give the space a lush look. A cover of straw (not hay) was applied to protect the seeds from marauding birds. We chose a blend of Fescue grasses suited to my zone and location specific conditions.
As luck would have it, the rains started just as work got completed. For three straight days it rained. By the following week, there was distinct growth visible. Now, the handkerchief sized area looks quite green and healthy. The ‘weeds’ will, I’m sure, move in soon enough. I welcome the diversity. There will be of course another seed application next spring to take care of winter damage and loss. Along with the other pertinent chores, it is so important to get the fall work done. It ensures success for the following spring.
Note: To reiterate, conventional lawns are terrible because they restrict strain biodiversity, deplete soil health, demand large amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticide/herbicides and support no pollinators. They need to be replaced with a selection of drought resistant, pollinator pleasing, low maintenance alternatives. At Cornell University, they are trialing types of oat grasses and other options to do just that. With opportunities to go up to Ithaca often, I intend to follow along closely on this project. Stay tuned!
Finally, the greenhouse has also been emptied of summer residents, given a thorough cleaning. It stands ready for the winter crowd. This week, I will be clipping, ‘power’ washing the tender plants (and their pots) and slowly start moving them into the greenhouse. I’d like it all completed before the first real frost. Too often we’ve lost some treasures due to our negligence in doing the seasonal tasks in a timely manner.
So many tasks await!
This is, in my opinion a far busier time than spring. Much has to get done before the hard stop of freezing temperatures. So it’s just as well, work in my garden has started. The big bulb planting marathon will be here before we know it! I’d like to think gardeners everywhere are preparing their gardens for the winter sleep and spring awakening. There’s much comfort in knowing we;re part of one of the best communities on earth. After all, we are the privileged custodians of earth itself.
Having thought about how every gardener or anyone who manages a piece of property must commit to doing their part in safeguarding the land and all who inhabits it, we arrive at what we can do and how to do it.
Typically, a gardener is advised to start with the soil. “ Get it tested!” is a commonly heard imperative. So lets begin with the soil in ones plot. In general, it’s good to know the state of the soil. Poor/rich, acidic/alkaline, clay/sandy, microbial content, are all factors that will affect what we choose to grow in it. Amending the soil to get it to be more supportive and nurturing of our desired plant selections is certainly a step to take. I however, and perhaps it is partially because I have a small garden area that is well delineated into smaller spaces, have never tested my soil. In the early years, I had the good intention of testing but never did. Then, over time I decided not to do so. Let me explain.
I believe the character of the soil in an area is a result of the general conditions it is in as well as how it has been managed. Management of the soil implies how it has been treated by humans – over fertilizing, use of pesticides, not providing mulch or groundcover, allowing soil erosion and/or mineral depletion etc., Hence, the basic soil will be what it is and sound practices can preserve and/or restore it to its natural state. I have observed that the general type of soil if amended say with clay to make it less sandy and slow water drainage, eventually, over time, reverts to its original state. Same with pH levels. Constant amending is needed. I would much rather grow plants that inherently thrive in those actual conditions. Adding a first round of top soil and a good measure of compost before getting started on the planting is a happy compromise.
Once planted up, mulch by way of something natural such as my preferred bark chips is commonly spread to keep the soil from drying up, protect against temperature extremes, suppress weeds and eventually break down to add to the soils nutrient content. I have since found that adding groundcover by way of low growing plants, reduces the amount of bark mulch required whilst still keeping weeds at bay and preventing rapid evaporation from the soil. Ground cover looks pretty and organically connects all the plantings so it looks less contrived. Soil erosion is also minimized. As a result of this practice, I have little need to keep feeding the beds with compost or water. The selected plants flourish when they’re well matched with the growing conditions.
This leads us to plant selection. As mentioned, they must be appropriate to the location. Soil, light exposure and whether they fit into the gardeners personal design vision are the main factors. However, the most important point here is that in order for a garden to support the ecosystem, at least 70% of the plants must be native to the region. The remaining 30% should not be invasive and should be beneficial to the native pollinators – think peonies, lilacs, spring bulbs, certain clematis, day lily, hosta. They’re non-native plants that have done well in that they enhance the garden and also provide food and shelter to the good insects.
Native plants are hardy, resilient and unfussy. However, some can be over-enthusiastic and take over the space by pushing out the meeker natives. Select wisely!
I’m going to say it upfront – I have never understood the need for large properties if it was not going to be used fully. I see time and time again, home buyers seeking substantial acreage but never utilizing most of the space. It’s one thing to buy land to preserve woodlands, natural water features, specimen trees or extensive gardens that they intend to care for. But that’s hardly ever the case. Most of the property is swathes of lawn with possibly a few trees and any garden or plantings to speak of is kept small and close to the house. I look at the vast, bland lawns and think “what a waste!”.
Large, pristine lawns are passé. Get over those golf course inspired ambitions. They guzzle water, demand copious fertilizers, pesticides and energy. They’re resource and time consuming features. And expensive. Instead, cut the lawns out drastically and whatever is left, let it be a mix of pollinator friendly, environment supporting diminutive workhorses. Plant native trees. Create new beds, Consider growing a meadow instead of lawn. Meadows enrich both the environment as well as our lives. They’re so full of life and movement – never boring!
Despite everything we know today that lawns are unsustainable, there is a deep seated reluctance to shrink those spaces and turn them into lively, thriving eco-friendly spaces. Originally inspired by English gardening trends, lawns became an ‘American’ must-have. There’s really nothing indigenous about them. Even the types of grass we use is not native. So what are we trying to prove? We can do better. Be better.
In general, plant native and pollinator friendly perennials. Keep things simple by staying away from plant divas. Add nesting boxes, bug motels and shelters such as dead wood and bramble. Let fallen leaves remain wherever possible.
Water has been slated to be a major problem in the climate change crisis. Globally. We’re already witnessing it. Too much or too little – it is causing significant damage. A gardener must work to lower the demand for water. By choosing those undemanding native plants and applying mulch and groundcovers one then simply relies on rain to do the necessary watering. This will inform you of the truly hardy plants and the better choices for a sustainable, environment supporting garden.
For plants in pots, watering frequently is required – so collect rain water. Water used to boil eggs and vegetables, once cooled, can also be used.
On the subject of water, immediately reusing that boiling hot water on hard-to-get-at weeds that show up between bricks and stones is a very effective way to kill them off. I’ve been doing this for years – it’s immensely simple and satisfying!
What weeds that show up despite everything ( and they will) are best taken care of manually and regularly. While not particularly a task I enjoy, it keeps me much more aware of how the garden is doing. I notice things that I could easily miss otherwise. The Columbines that pop up wherever they choose and make the place that much more charming. I see where the garden snakes likes to sunbathe. I observe the birds looking for worms ind other protein rich bugs to feed their young, the hidden flowers like lily-of-the-valley waft their perfume and give me pause to enjoy. See? Weeding has its positive points.
Instead of gas powered tools, use electric or manually operated ones. Cuts down on gas and minimizes noise pollution. A little more physical effort on our part will only keep us in better shape.
You get the idea, there is much each of us can do. Must do. This call of the climate cannot be ignored. In the final analysis, we custodians of our unique, sacred spaces must be able to say – “I did my best”.
Note: In the following weeks, I’ll get into things like those plastic pots we accumulate when buying plants and other actionable items towards gardening smarter.
A few environmentally friendly features in my garden –
Following up on my thoughts about how we can become better gardeners. As custodians of our precious parcels of earth, how can we best serve the environment as well as ourselves in a responsible, caring, kind manner and still express our creativity and personal style?
There is plenty out there that preaches about dire consequences if we don’t wholeheartedly embrace everything suggested by the extreme activists. It’s all or nothing for them. Personally, I find this aggressive approach unnecessary and somewhat bullying. It fosters guilt and resentment and frankly sucks the joy out of gardening.
On the other hand, the climate change deniers are at the other extreme and their attitude of not caring at all about the clear evidence on the climate crisis is maddening and can generate a feeling of ‘Why bother doing my part if others are not doing anything at all?’. This results in total inaction.
I believe there is a happy compromise. We can have our own unique gardens along with implementing good environmentally correct, eco-friendly, sustainable practices. But first, we gardeners must ask ourselves a few key questions.
The foremost thing is to ask ourselves why we garden at all. One gardens because one enjoys the outdoors, immersed in nature. Where, creating a beautiful, healthy garden to nurture both body and soul is vital. A space that soothes, inspires, informs and invigorates and also serves the greater good. Where artistic visions are expressed and simultaneously, the needs of flora and fauna supported. I garden because I must.
By its very nature, a garden is mans attempt at controlling the immediate environment. That area that we ‘own’ to do as we will. However, this cannot, must not, be at the cost of causing any negative impact. Do No Harm is not an oath restricted to physicians. It applies to every one of us. In the garden, it means we work in a manner that is useful, helpful, mindful and joyful. Creating any garden is hard work but by being thoughtful and caring, the labor is worthwhile, noble. A gardener worth her salt knows and embraces the fact that she does not own the garden at all. She is merely the custodian. This is a high honor and a great responsibility. The Earth is counting on us to do right. After all, a garden is not just about plants and their pretty flowers or tempting fruits. It’s about all the creatures who inhabit the garden and live in the ecosystem. This includes the gardener herself.
And that brings us to how we garden. If you believe that the gardener is a part of the garden itself, then surely the idea of best practice is implied. Nothing one implements can be harmful to the gardener and consequently, to any of the living beings in the garden. The solution then, is to go organic. It’s that simple.
As one who has always gardened organically, I know this method is not easy. Instead of spraying chemical pesticides and/or fertilizers and get instant results, organic applications take more diligence and vigilance. Organic products are to be used with prudence because even they, are broad in their action. If it is used to kill one kind of pest, say a tick, the product will affect a whole bunch of other bugs including the good ones. Organic or plant based does not automatically mean safe. Remember, tobacco is a plant product and grown organically or not it harms and can kill humans who smoke or consume it. In the context of the garden, think Round-Up and you’ll see what I mean. That powerful plant-derived chemical which acts swiftly and very effectively, is pure evil. There is plenty of data that proves my point. So, organic is our answer to the how.
Organic gardening comprises a number of aspects. It’s about the types of plants, the soil and how it is amended, water and how it is sourced and used, the tools we use, the wildlife and how everything is connected.
I will go into all those factors next week. For now, lets ponder over how we’re doing in the How department and what we can do better and what we can stop doing altogether.
Keep in mind, we’re trying to do our best but we’re only human. We make mistakes. So self-flagellation of any sort is not allowed. We’re growing better together.
September feels like a fresh start. A new year at school, a return to work after a break/vacation. One naturally looks at the garden anew. There’s still so much growing that it’s easy to think Fall is a long ways away. I think of September as a ‘tween month. It can feel like summer and autumn at the same time! I’ve learned to live like it’s summer but start thinking like its fall. Best to get ready for the upcoming season while one still has time on ones side. In that spirit, here’s my list of garden chores for September.
Things To Do This Month –
1. Continue weeding.
2. Deadhead. Cut back anything that looks ragged or done for.
3. Mow the lawn less frequently. Keep the blade at a height of at least 4 inches.
4. Water judiciously.
5. Get leaf rakes, leaf bags and keep ready. Fall cometh! Remember, leaving fallen leaves in place is an eco-friendly practice except if there is too much and the thick layer is likely to smother what’s beneath or can be a place to harbor plant pathogens. I let the leaves be in the meadow and beds but clear them from paths and my tiny lawn. All gathered leaves are composted.
A great deal of my waking hours are spent thinking about climate change. How could one possibly ignore it when every news cycle mentions climate related crises in practically every corner of the world! An all too short a monsoon in. western India. Too much rain in Pakistan. Unprecedented heat in Europe. A rare but dangerous deluge of rain in southern California. Devastating wildfires in Hawaii and Louisiana. Parts of the United States experiencing unrelenting high temperatures all summer. Storms and hurricanes doing their worst all over the globe. All of these events are happening at the same time and matters are not likely to improve anytime soon.
Needless to say, we are all going to see immediate impacts on our food supply. Grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, poultry and meat. Everything.
In India, because rice crops have been compromised, the export of rice has been suspended so as to have a sufficient supply for domestic consumption. In Europe, we already know the olive harvest will be quite reduced which will mean less production and higher cost of olive oil. In the US, we will see vegetable and fruit supplies affected. Temperature fluctuations directly influence egg production.
Climate change can increase the spread of diseases. Remember how the cost of eggs sky-rocketed earlier this year? The scarcity was due to Avian flu in the chicken population and so egg production came close to a stand still.
If, we, as a global collective don’t act with urgency, the situation will most certainly escalate and become untenable. I’m not trying to be an alarmist but I am calling for attention. And Action. Now.
In my own little garden I see the impact of seasons gone awry. Not as an anomaly of a single year but consistently and erratically. A winter too mild one year followed by a very wet spring. Or, an extremely cold winter but without any snow to speak off and then a warm, dry spring. A too wet summer or a too hot one. Too cold, too hot, not enough rain or too much of it. Nothing is as it used to be.
For the last four or five years. Our fruit trees (apples and pears) have yielded barely any fruit. They bloomed too early for the pollinators to jump into action or not at all (bud drop) when the temperatures soared unexpectedly as though it was already summer. Elsewhere in the garden, depending on the weather the flowers of some plants bloomed early/late. This affects the fauna that are dependent on them. There is the natural sequence of life in the wild (nature) that gets disrupted and the results are damaging and/or unhealthy all around.
With so much unpredictably, its hard to plan in the garden. What, how, why and when we plant are questions we must consider seriously. Whatever we do today has consequences in the near as well as the distant future.
If it all sounds depressing, I understand. It feels too overwhelming and out of our control. However, you and I know – we cannot throw our hands up in despair and give up. Nor can we push through like nothing is happening. There is plenty we can do. While governments try to reach consensus and scientists work on coming up with good solutions and alternatives, each and every one of us must do our part. Conserve, reduce, reuse, recycle, re-purpose, go organic, conserve some more. In every aspect of life.
Since this space is for matters related to gardens and gardening, lets restrict ourselves to just that. I’d like every one of us to carve out some time and then sit down to carefully consider their own gardens and gardening philosophy. What changes have you noticed in your corner? How are you responding to these changes in the short term? How does the long term look?
Over the next two weeks, I’d like us all to seriously think about our role as gardener. Caretakers of a precious piece of Earth. Lets be purposeful, truthful, mindful and thoughtful. Importantly, let’s cogitate from a position of hope and positivity Two weeks from now, I’ll present my own thoughts and plan of action (s). I’d really love to hear from any and all of you. You can either use the Comment space below or email me at email@example.com
We;re in this together and together we will overcome.
A double feature this week! I missed posting last week as I was in the throes of helping my daughter move into her apartment from where she will attend graduate school. She will be dearly missed. Living at home since the pandemic, she morphed into a very capable gardener and I’d come to rely on her assistance. Fingers crossed she will miss the garden and visit often enough to help out. It’s only a 3 hour 45 minute drive – surely a monthly trip is possible? I live in hope.
A couple of weeks ago, I placed my bulb order for fall planting. A few weeks later than usual due to all the traveling I was doing. As expected, a few of my choices tulips were sold out. Some other favorites were not being offered. I had to find alternatives and make design adjustments as I was placing my order on the phone.
Note: Being able to speak to an actual person is far better than ordering online or by mail. I could discuss alternatives that were suggested when my selections were not possible.
I found out that due to the horrid heat endured throughout Europe last year, the volumes of bulbs were smaller this year. The heat also put paid to certain longtime favorites.
Given this year’s unusually wet, cool summer will in all possibility impact next year’s bulb production. This is the direct result of changing climate. Similarly, other plants will also be affected. We must ready ourselves to shift how we garden and what we plant.
Just yesterday, I heard that the olive oil production this year will be 20% less than last year when it was already lower than usual. The excessive heat over the summer all across the olive growing regions in Europe has caused the olives to drop before its time. I’m bracing myself for a hike in cost.
So, if you haven’t as yet got around to ordering your bulbs, don’t waste any more time. The tulip selections have been seriously impacted. The alliums, camassia and such were not as affected but its only a matter of time that they too will. This is a gentle warning that global warming is happening and we as citizens of the world as well as our governments and corporations must take action before it gets worse. So much is at stake. We cannot ignore the writing on the wall. A reckoning is underway.
As gardeners we are generally so busy doing thing that we mostly miss out on the wondrous goings on in the garden. We see what is in bloom but don’t pay attention to the details of the flower. Similarly, we don’t notice the beautiful and brilliantly designed seedpods specific to a plant. We miss noting details of shapes, colors, interactions of the many critters with the plants and so much else all through the seasons. We think we notice but we don’t really. Mindfulness takes conscious effort and time.
This was made beautifully apparent when I attended a ‘mindful walk’ at the botanical gardens at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY this past Friday. Sarah and Kevin who work there, took our little group on a slow walk where they pointed to plants and trees and highlighted things we had to stop and look closely to truly understand and appreciate the details. Patterns, designs, textures and how they evolve and change over time. There’s always something you notice that you’d missed before. How flora and fauna work together, how colors complement or camouflage, how pollinators are attracted and guided to do their work… the list is endless! This kind of walking is meditative and so uplifting for body, mind and spirit.
Full disclosure – I do my best to be mindful in my garden but it is hard because I’m often distracted by to-do elements – weeds that need pulling, plants that need staking or trimming, what needs watering, who is attacking and munching on whom. It’s much easier for me to go to a public garden and do a really good mindful walk. Perhaps one day, I will be evolved enough to do the same in my own garden. To simply and purposefully observe is a goal.
I sincerely believe that in being mindful, truly present in the garden and in everything else in life is how we will stay aware of changes in the environment, our homes and in ourselves and act accordingly before matters get out of hand. Everything in Nature is connected and together we can overcome any challenge. Together we will thrive. We must.
Note: Some images from past years to get you motivated to order bulbs for fall planting –
It’s funny how easily one can forget that one is not in any way in-charge of the garden. We can plan, design, prepare, plant and go about all the factors in creating and maintaining our gardens but really, we are rank amateurs in the grand scheme of horticultural mastery. Nature reigns supreme.
Whilst I’ve been away, despite my absence and consequential neglect, my garden has come through just admirably. It’s true that some matters like watering and having someone to stop by and check on things were addressed but in reality, a garden is pretty much on its own when the gardener is absconding. In our hubris, we imagine all sorts of calamities that could happen. Stuff that we would heroically overcome were they to occur in our presence. The truth is, I could have done very little about the heat wave nor the fierce storms that came through in my absence.
The results of extreme weather are inevitable. Plants in their prime keeling over in the heat, fruits changing their minds about ripening mid-process, low-lying beds in danger of drowning sending beseeching looks for help, roses either wearing cloaks of mildew or looking crispy and dry depending on the cause, are all things that happen. But, none of these things are actually in a gardener’s control. For the most part, we simply deal with the problems as they occur.
Given the undeniable fact that the climate is changing, its virtually impossible to predict what conditions to anticipate and mitigate. So, we try to take a broad in-case-of approach. In case it rains, lets do this, in case its too dry lets do that. We don’t really know!
And that’s what I did too. It’s pretty much what any gardener does. We loftily aim to preserve intact every single plant in the garden but it’s all a big gamble really.
Here’s a sample of what actually happened –
A sudden increase in the neighborhood’s rabbit population led to the demise of the squash plants that I was growing as an experiment – it was to be a groundcover that also supplied the summer menus. Its a groundcover all right. The flowers are serving the rabbits.
Several small pots corralled into a bigger container for easier watering became a buffet for slugs due to the high volume of rainwater that could not drain away fast enough. The slugs were mighty ravenous.
The espalier has seen a growth spurt and looks desperately in need of a good summer trim.
Predictably, the weeds have been most happy. They have thrived and spread.
Squirrels took care of all the ripening apples and pears. That’s right. The rascals left nothing.
And that was about it in damage assessment.
Meanwhile, everything else looks just lovely. All that pre-travel fretting, during-travel worrying and returning-home anxiety was a complete waste.
Between all the heatwaves and thunderstorms, it’s been hard to take care of the garden chores I’m sure. I return home in a couple of days but as the assistant gardener has kept me in the domestic loop, I realize it has been somewhat of a challenge to get things done. As in all matters, one simply does ones best. No point in fretting and fuming over things not in ones control. From a quick glance at this week’s weather forecast, it looks favorable so, lets get a start on the August chores shall we?
What To Do In August –
1. Harvest the vegetable patch regularly. If you’re overwhelmed with the bounty, offer them to food kitchens, friends and neighbors. Also, consider canning vegetables and fruit. They are mighty handy to have on those days in winter when you crave summer fare. Not to mention the crazy times when cooking is simply not possible.
2. Keep weeding. Even though it is hot, hot, hot, weeds continue to thrive. Early hours of the morning are most enjoyable – cooler and fewer biting bugs.
3. Water as required.
4. Mow as usual. Again, do the right thing and keep blades at 3 1/2 to 4 inches high.
5. Continue to deadhead and trim back. This keeps the garden tidy. Seeds that you wish to harvest can be left on the plants till they are ripe and ready.
6. Take cuttings of plants for rooting. Doing it now will provide enough time for growth before planting in the fall or bringing indoors in winter.
7. If you’re going away, arrange to have someone water the garden and keep an eye on things.
8. Prune wisteria and anything that is overgrown.
9. Watch for pests and/or disease. Use organic treatments.
10. Keep birdbaths filled with fresh water.
11. Spend as much time as possible in the garden – autumn approaches! Eat, read, snooze, throw parties, paint, write, meditate, pay bills, enjoy the garden.
Note: More images sent to me on what’s happening in my garden –
Pick a place on the globe. Any place. It will be facing some sort of unusual weather. That unusual weather is likely to become the new normal. Higher heat, less rain, too much rain – it doesn’t matter, conditions will change and so must our lifestyles.
I just spent a glorious month in Provence, France. This is perhaps one of my most loved places on earth. It is where I feel most at home as though my spirit has always belonged here. I love everything about Provence but most especially the craggy, rugged landscape. Blessed with sunshine almost 300 days of the year, it is dry and beautiful. The pace of life is slow, the wine is light, food delicious and the people are unpretentious. Yet, beneath that display of the good life, there is the threat of fire. Wildfires have always been known to occur but over the years they’ve become more frequent and wider spread. So too have heat waves. Just as we’re seeing in North America.
Most homes in this region do not have air-conditioning. There hasn’t really been much need of it – the well built stone houses keep the interiors comfortably cool. Ceiling fans or freestanding ones have been sufficient. Not any more.
To keep energy consumption within capacity, when one runs the laundry or dish-washing machines matters. We are encouraged to use the machines late afternoon or very early in the morning. Wood for outdoor grilling is a no-no. Gas grills are encouraged.
Gardening as we know it is a super luxury. To grow vegetables for food is understandable but for beauty and fun? That’s a privilege only a few can afford. Water is precious. Unless one is blessed with ones own natural water source, the cost can be prohibitive. Of course, it stands to reason that making a garden with the region’s hardy natives is best. Lavender, rosemary, olives, succulents, Spanish broom, chicory and others do very well and if I were to make a garden here, those are the plants I’d use. It might be a cliché but I believe if one thinks outside the design box, there are numerous ways to design gardens with easily found, native plants. Anywhere in the world. This is reality.
And then, we come to the Mumbai monsoon season – I’m here for a couple of weeks. Not the most ideal time to visit but since I visit my father a couple of times a year, my schedule demands that I must face the rains annually. It’s warm and muggy. Almost swampy. The fierce torrents can routinely cause floods and damage to vegetation, roads and structures. The high humidity leaves a film of moisture on everything. Air conditioning is a luxury for most folk. So the humidity with all the implications and consequences is simply accepted.
But the monsoons are critical for farmers. The timing and amount of rain is extremely important. Too early or too late, too much or too little will all mean failed crops. Which would result in a global food shortage. Nothing works in isolation.
Climate change is not a local problem and cannot be solved region by region. One country cannot ‘solve’ it by itself. It demands the world coming together. Cooperation, compassion and commitment from every single country is imperative. Each citizen of the world must also do their part. We are in this together and together, we can do something positive to save the earth and save ourselves.
The frequency and ferocity of fires and floods are warning signals we can no longer ignore.
Note: Just so it we don’t feel depressed about it all, here are images of sunflowers in Provence to remind us of what we’re trying to save. And then, lets get cracking on fighting the good fight.