NATURE’S TURN: Frozen northeast, flowering northwestMore Info
November 19 – December 2, 2018
Mount Washington — In my hilltown location, the ground had frozen and thawed from the beginning of November, engendering a sense of urgency to plant remaining bulbs and hardy tubers and to complete weeding beds awaiting their turn since harvest. There were mounds of soil to be raked smooth and edged where edible tubers had been excavated; compost to add and methodical broadforking* to aerate the earth before the long and deep freeze. I had missed the window of opportunity to plant cover crops in late-harvested beds, having been thwarted by chipmunks who ate early autumn sowings of winter wheat and rye, requiring tedious reseeding. Being met by frozen ground is nonnegotiable. Frozen ground is the beginning of winter for the three-season gardener.
After the ground freezes, gardeners look up to seed stalks and vines of flowering annuals and perennials to decide which to leave for wildlife and to disperse their seed in the landscape, and which to cut to collect seed for intentional sowing or to compost. In addition, most gardens will benefit from cleaning the remains of prolific vines from trellises and fences—in my garden, those of morning glory, bean and cucurbit. Expect morning glories will have dropped seed by now. The first snow of the season, last Thursday into Friday, delayed my mulching garlic and sunchoke beds that were stripped of hard-earned, chopped leaf mulch by strong winds. I plan to spread rotted hay on top of the snow.
Now to explain why I am still thinking about late autumn tasks: I abandoned my garden for nearly a week to fly west to commune with the biota of the temperate climes of the San Francisco Bay Area. In Golden Gate Park on November 9, I toured the San Francisco Botanical Garden and, on the 10th, the historic Japanese Tea Garden; more about these in a future column. On the 12th, I had the pleasure of being received at a small private garden 15 miles north of San Francisco in Larkspur, California, at the foot of Mount Tamalpais. It was here that I learned that giant coast redwood trees were planted around house lots, challenging my assumption that native forests were cut wherever houses were built.
When my hosts opened the garden gate, flower fragrance pervaded the air, despite the presence of smoke and ash from the Camp fire 150 miles distant. I hope the photographs convey the mingled sweet scents, as vivid as the colors of the vibrant vegetation.
Fall and spring guide to local frost dates
*Broadforks – consider for the new growing season