Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


Do I Have to Clean Up the Garden?

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My garden looks like the day after a big party. Plants in a various states of disarray, heaps of spent flowers have fallen asleep right where they were so vibrant just weeks ago, everywhere I look there are reminders of summer’s wildness. Some years I go at fall clean up with great enthusiasm. I can’t wait to clear it all away and have a totally zen garden to look at. No mess, just rocks, soil and conifers. Not this year — I feel reluctant, my mind is elsewhere.

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Immediately I start to rationalize and formulate “the rules”. I can’t cut down any plant that might provide food for the birds. There, that eliminates having to deal with anything with seed heads. Besides, they look so interesting and sculptural, especially after a frost.

Technically, I really shouldn’t cut anything down until after a few good frosts when the perennials are completely dormant. By doing it too early, it might stimulate growth and waste much of the plant’s energy.

Not to change the subject but has anyone else noticed what an incredibly vibrant fall we’ve been having? My weather guru, Cliff Mass, who, btw, has his own new weather blog, said “fall colors are encouraged when there are warm, sunny days and cool, non-freezing nights. We have had an unusual number of such days/nights during much of October. The fact we haven’t had any windstorms to knock off the leaves certainly helped too”.

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So, what’s it going to be? Layers of fallen debris, no doubt immediately inhabited by pesky mold spores, masses of pests laying eggs, blackspot galore and slugs breeding under every pile of leaves. Well, I guess so because by the time I finished taking these photos, it has started to rain again. Obviously, I am distracted in a big way.

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So you see, I really can’t clean up the garden today. Besides, we haven’t had a frost yet and with global warming, we might not have one for a very long time. My time is definitely better spent checking and re-checking the polls, pulling out my voter’s pamphlet to study up on the things I haven’t decided on, making a game plan for standing in line tomorrow — you know, the right clothes, reading material, cell phone charged, food and water in case there is a long wait. I guess you can tell where my head is — Everybody Please Get Out and Vote!

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5 Responses »

  1. I have been wondering also about the food garden and if some of it will go to seed for next year.

  2. Poppy, my sentiments as well! I am still trying to put a things into the veggie garden, especially cover crops that we will eat some of, like fava beans, peas and maybe arugula. The kale, chard, broccoli and lettuce don’t need much help now, except keeping the slugs down. But its harder to get out there these days, with the rain, the shorter evenings – no evenings now! And interest moving away from the garden.

    Krista, I haven’t tried to collect seed, actively or passively (let it fall where it may and grow there) from the garden much, except some of the larger seeds like beans. Our artichokes re-seed, as does the rocket-arugula and corn salad. But I haven’t tried carrots, lettuce, beets, etc. I’ve seen gardens where people have. Do you have anything specific that has recently gone to seed that you wonder about?

  3. We had luck last in years past with the tomatoes going to seed, so I think we will try again on those.I am wondering about the cilantro, corn and carrots. Is it too late to put in cover crops? The snow level is creeping down the mountains. This may not be good news for the garden, but it is great news for those of us who ski and snowboard!

  4. Krista, at our pea patch we recently cleaned up the kid’s garden, which had been abandoned a year earlier by its previous keeper, and we found dozens of radishes, kale, tomatoes, and onions that had all naturalized and were delicious. But the quality of the soil was in question, because it hadn’t been cover cropped, and no compost had been added in years.

    I would bet that many more vegetable species than the ones we found that day would volunteer themselves freely, though a lot of corn these days is sold as hybrid, and those won’t come true.

  5. Sally…While reading through alot of your back stuff, I realized that in the Kale Chip recipe, I didn’t mention that I used dinasaur kale, not the curly variety. Don’t think it will work with the curly stuff. By the way, was cleaning up my front yard garden today and noticed my Sun Gold tomato plant was still producing…not bad for NE! I love this website(?) blog(?)….you gals have been busy!! As they say….keep on!