“Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night; and thus he would never know the rhythms that are at the heart of life.” ~Hal Borland
I love Fall. It’s a season that renews my energy and enriches my soul in so many ways. It brings to mind the crescendo of a Beethoven symphony – the resolution of a successful harvest and a true feast for ALL the senses.
Flame, gold and flamboyant orange followed by the drama of the ‘fall’ – the unmistakable crunch of dried leaves underfoot…the scent of earth and decomposing vegetation that holds me transfixed in the early morning air trying to breathe deeper than humanly possible to take it all in.
It’s a time to put things to bed, to complete the growing cycle and prepare for the coming spring. It feels like the briefest of seasons to me, a short but sweet lullaby leading us into the long sleep of winter.
Apart from the reverie, bonfires and apple-cinnamon scents coming from my kitchen (I have an odd compulsion to bake muffins and cookies this time of year🤔) there are many tasks as a gardener, that I keep busy with. Some are optional of course, but there are mandatory items on the autumnal to-do list which I always get done before the snow flies.
Living on 5 acres in the country means my husband also has an optional/mandatory list of tasks that help prepare us for the winter…but I’ll save his Top 5 tasks for next week’s post!
Without further ado, here are the Top 5 tasks that keep me occupied in the October garden in Manitoba, Canada.
TOP 5 FALL GARDEN CLEAN UP TASKS
- RAKE FALL LEAVES, SHRED WITH LAWNMOWER AND PILE FOR LEAF MOULD
- PLANT GARLIC
- BRING GOLDFISH IN FOR THE WINTER
- PLANT SPRING BULBS/LIFT BULBS, CORMS AND RHIZOMES TO STORE FOR WINTER
- CLEAN UP VEGETABLE GARDEN
1. RAKE FALL LEAVES, SHRED WITH LAWNMOWER AND PILE FOR LEAF MOULD
Can anyone say “FREE RESOURCE?!” If you’re a gardener, what I’m about to tell you is probably ‘old hat‘ but if you’re just starting out this is a great idea you will find helpful. I wish I had started doing this sooner.
Did you know that pound for pound leaves of most trees contain twice the mineral content of manure? They are a fantastic source of nutrients and contribute enormously to the soil health. Yup…it’s worth the effort to rake all the abundant fallen litter into nice little piles and run over them with your lawnmower…chop em up…add to your compost or simply pile the chopped up leaves on their own to add as mulch the following spring to your garden beds.
If you add the leaves to your compost – you’re adding that ‘brown’ component you’ve heard about which supplies much needed carbon to the mix. I always leave them where they have fallen in the garden beds, and on the lawn we just mulch them back in rather than raking and removing them.
Seize the moment – do it – your spring garden will thank you!
2. PLANT GARLIC
It took me many years struggling to grow garlic in my vegetable garden to learn some simple facts that have changed the tide on my success rate. Fall is indeed the best time of year for folks in a northern climate to plant hard-neck variety garlic bulbs for next year’s harvest.
This year – I planted an Heirloom variety named ‘Red Russian‘. This is a purple stripe garlic with thick strong wrappers and GREAT flavour. I picked up 2 bulbs – separated each little bulblet and planted in a sunny well drained and amended (organic topsoil and compost) spot in the garden.
They are planted 4 inches deep – 8 inches apart and piled with a thick layer of mulch to (hopefully) prevent any early sprouting this fall if the weather stays warmer than expected.
I read an informative article which beautifully articulates the health benefits of eating garlic and provides a very detailed and informative planting guide. This local garden centre, Sage Garden Greenhouses is one of my favourite haunts throughout the year and well known for their focus on healthy gardening and organic practices. If you want to learn more about garlic…check it out here!
3. BRING GOLDFISH IN FOR THE WINTER
My motivation to bring our goldfish in to aquariums has everything to do with the fact that our pond is only two feet deep and freezes solid in our -30 to -40 degree winters. These goldfish all have names…I know – what can I say, I couldn’t help myself! 😀
Right now we have a total of 33 goldfish that were all ‘born‘ in our pond. If you haven’t yet read the story of how we created the pond, and how my girlfriend gifted us with her three goldfish to start us off, I invite you to check it out here (it’s free to download👍🏼).
I have two 30 gallon aquariums set up in our house and I get them cleaned, filled with water and running before I head outside with my clear plastic bucket to begin the fall fish roundup. It’s not always easy…we have rock walls and many lovely places for fish to hide. Which is great in the summertime to protect them from predators if need be – but poses a distinct challenge when it comes to finding them when they know a net is ready to scoop them up.
In the summertime – they swim towards me – they understand that food drops from me like manna from heaven. This time of year, however, a switch gets flipped in their minds and they just KNOW a net is coming to scoop them out of their favourite home. I try to tell them it’s for their own good…
It’s a 20′ diameter pool approximately…so standing on the edge with a long handled net will only get me so far. This year…I climbed in wearing my pond thongs (the kind that go on your feet…not the other kind) and made my way to the center rock pile and found many of my beautiful fish hiding there.
Let’s just say, the water is REALLY cold right now and my toes, feet and legs went frosty numb very quickly! We managed to find them all. Artemis and Saddleback were the last two holdouts…but they are all safe inside now and ready for the long winter wait for their return to the pond next year. PHEW!
4.PLANT SPRING BULBS/LIFT BULBS, CORMS AND RHIZOMES TO STORE FOR WINTER
I admit, this is one of my favourite fall pastimes. What’s not to love about tulips, daffodils, crocuses and tiny spring gems like grape hyacinth peaking a gardener’s anticipation for the following spring? This is a two-fold task, because it also involves digging up summer Dahlia tubers and Gladiolus corms…and BONUS, there are usually double the corms you started with…an ever increasing bounty to plant and share!
The small bit of effort that is required to plant spring blooming bulbs in the fall and tuck them in amongst your perennial beds or on a woodland path to naturalize is SOOOO worth it when they burst through the ground in springtime and delight the eye that has been longing for blooms and colour all winter long.
I have many tulips and daffodils and other bulbs already growing in my garden, so this year it was simpler. I wanted to add some Purple Sensation allium bulbs to one of my newer herbaceous borders to add some height and purple ‘Kool-aid’ scent to the garden. (seriously – they do kind of smell like that!)
Spring bulbs can be planted any time from mid September to mid October…I’ve done it both ways and had no issues if I was a little behind and couldn’t get them in the ground until October…either way is fine!
To be fair, I haven’t dug up my Dahlias yet…they are still blooming!! Knock on wood I have a few more weeks before the snow flies…so I will let them perform as long as they wish, and dig them up when they have indicated “Okay – we’re done now”.
On to the Gladiolus!
This is a task yet to be performed…again…like the Dahlias, a hard frost has not come yet to allow the leaves to brown and die off on the Gladiolus. That is generally the best time to dig them up and once dug you should find a damp-free place to dry them completely before storing them for the winter.
If you want, you can dust the corms with an anti-fungal to defend against rot and disease in particular, but I don’t always do this. I found drying them well before storing in paper bags and then keeping them in a cool place (basement) works usually just fine.
5.CLEAN UP VEGETABLE GARDEN
The pole beans are still in place in my vegetable garden, as is the kale. We had an especially good harvest this season and enjoyed the beans, peas, corn, tomatoes and peppers etc. Once the corn was finished, I pulled them out and cut them into small pieces to add to the compost. It’s always best to chop up any plants that have large stalks like corn, into smaller bits to help accelerate the composting process.
Once the pole beans have dried (I leave some to mature and dry on the plant) I will collect the beans and save them to use in the garden next year. Years ago I purchased a packet of Scarlett Runner beans and have never needed to buy any since…the same will be true of the Italian pole beans my Dad gave us this year!
I like to clean up the vegetable garden of weeds and spent plants so no disease has a chance to hang out in the soil, but also to give myself a head-start next spring.
I started to dig up the carrot patch today and we’ll be cleaning them and freezing them for the winter in the next few days…my dog, Cali, helped with that whole process, making sure to pick up any small carrots that didn’t make it into my bucket fast enough!
I’d love to hear about your TO-DO fall tasks – because I know they are going to be different for everyone depending on where you live and what your priorities are – feel free to share in the comments!😀
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all my Canadian friends!!
An especially big ❤️ to my big brother who’s birthday is today. We’ll raise a glass for you tonight Jim – you are loved!
Garden lovers welcome💚
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