Early November usually finds me in the garden on successive Mondays, chipping away at chores that fall into two categories. There are those that need to be completed before the hard frost arrives; draining the outside irrigation line that runs up onto our deck so the frost doesn’t explode it, moving the fig tree and agave into the safe and warm environment of the garage and pulling the annuals out of the containers. For a “must do” list that’s pretty small and if I really focused on these simple tasks I could get it done in about an hour.
The second category is tasks that aren’t urgent but I do them anyway. I could leave everything else alone and turn my back on the garden but my “shabbiness factor” is pretty low. I invented this term to describe the degree to which one can tolerate the mess that the garden becomes over the winter if you do nothing. I like to look out at a tidy scene when I stand at my living room window watching the north wind tear at the branches in December, hence my low shabbiness factor number.
Perennials, for example, don’t need to be cut down once the frost arrives but who wants to look at piles of mushy daylily and hosta foliage sulking and surrounded by melted snow? Russian Sage looks derelict after the flowers fade and the stems dry. The dry and black stems of Salvia ‘Caradonna’ resemble a miniature forest fire zone. Who wants to look at that all winter? I mow as much down as I can but there’s no compelling reason to do so. The plants don’t care.
How many times do you cut your lawn for the last time? At some point in October we all think this will be it and yet we’re almost always out there again aren’t we? No matter how poor it looked in the summer lawns remarkably bounce back once the weather cools and we receive some rainfall. And they grow, even in late October they’re still growing. Nowhere does it say that you have to cut your lawn so it’s the same length over winter as it is during the growing season. All you really need to do is rake off or mulch the leaves that have floated down onto the surface. Fertilizing in fall is a good step too. I prefer to look at a manicured rather than a shabby lawn when it’s not snow-covered so I’ll likely cut it one more time, which will give me a chance to drain the gas from the tank.
Working in the garden in November often brings back scenes of summer pleasures, especially when I’m pulling annuals and moving empty containers on the deck. Sweeping soil and leaves off the floor and moving furniture leaves me somewhat melancholy. We spend a lot of time on that deck, not just our family but all of our friends who come to spend time up there eating, drinking, listening to music and laughing. It’s a harsh reminder that winter is imminent when the deck is completely bare.
The essential chores are completed. If weather and time permits I’ll keep working on removing plants (without breaking a shovel) in preparation for the dwarf conifer project in spring. There are Christmas lights waiting to go up and a Christmas planter to be made at the front door. The garden never sleeps; neither does the gardener.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *