By Naomi Jackson, Becketwood Member
I've been asked several times if I'm glad the gardening season is over. In late October I pondered the question as I wandered through the Member gardens and Fernwood Glen. I have two answers: not really, and it isn’t over.
Right up until the hard frost I was harvesting herbs from our Member garden. We had bumper crops of rosemary, sage and winter savory. And milkweed seeds. I stuffed leaves between the plants in hopes that some will overwinter, and am wondering if I should find more leaves before they disappear under the snow.
In our vegetable patch, I had to consider how best to protect the soil. Leaves are free, but how to keep them from blowing around? Straw is messy, and it’s never as seed-free as they promise. I thought of a cover crop but it’s much too late in the season. This year I’m making do with frost-killed calendula stems and leftover endive. I'll do some research this winter so I’m better prepared next year.
In Fernwood Glen, late fall is a good time to nab the buckthorn seedlings that were hiding in the underbrush and to toss stray balls back into the schoolyard. The broken stems of Joe Pye weed remind me that I should have been digging some of it before it takes over the woods. It goes on the list for next spring.
I like to walk through the glen after the leaves have fallen, into spaces I can't reach in summer, taking notes, thinking about ground cover for bare spots, erosion control, trimming, digging and planting. Our garden crew has done a good job of getting rid of non-native, invasive species—except for the tiny blue Siberian squill, which can only be tackled in spring and involves getting very muddy. The paths have been cleaned up, buckthorn and ash saplings pulled, and a hearty attempt made to push back the 10-foot-high cup plants.
One day while I was checking out the pond, a late bloom caught my eye. Our pond had been discovered by a wayward New England aster seed, and it had grown to 4 feet and put out blossoms without my noticing. I love New England aster, and so do the bees and butterflies, but it’s like cup plant and Joe Pye weed. Tall and sturdy, if they aren’t kept under control they will march through any available space, squeezing out the red-spiked cardinal flower, the tiny wood phlox, and other smaller, more delicate species.
Well, there’s another task for next spring. When I’m done making the list, I'll pull out the seed catalogs. They make good winter reading.
The leaves are gone and there’s a dusting of snow on the ground in Fernwood Glen, but it’s still a beautiful place to walk, so grab some warm clothes and step on out. And if you see any of our Fernwood Glen volunteers in the hall, give them a huge thank-you for their help these last two seasons: Todd Gulliver, Joel Mortenson, Bonnie Sample, Peggy and Roger Ryden, Dale Stuepfert, Jon Riehle, Jude Wing, June Peterson, Mickey Monson, Linda Kusserow, Chris Curtiss, Katherine Richardson. If I forgot someone, I apologize, and please let me know! They did most of the work; I just wandered around looking busy.