gardenphyllisophyBy Phyllis Galowitz

The early frost on September 20th, and then on Columbus Day weekend, ended the dahlias’ bloom. That day, I cut them down to 6” and it made me sad to see them go. During the next couple of weeks they’ll have to be dug, left upside-down to dry and then stored in peat moss or vermiculite in a cool, dry place for the winter. They’re worth the trouble.

The sugar maples were bare by then and the lawn covered with a beautiful mosaic of leaves. With all the rain that fell there was no opportunity to work in the garden. But I’m still hoping for that special treat that usually comes at this time of the year called Indian Summer when we’ll have some warm, sunny days and I can plant garlic, put in some bulbs and cut down the phlox that are still standing and look pretty, even without their showy flowers.

By the end of the month, the summer’s screen of lush greenery will be gone and the view from my window will be entirely different. When the trees are bare, I can see their shapes. I can see houses I’d forgotten existed. I can see the deer resting on a hill. I can see my garden with no obstructions and I can see where plantings are needed in empty spaces to make the landscape more attractive when winter is here. I can see what’s overgrown and needs to be moved.

This is the time to explore good, local nurseries to observe how a plant looks at this time of the year and how it grows in our climate. Is it evergreen or deciduous? Will its shape enhance the spot it will fill? Will you need ground covers? They come in many different shades of green and different textures to add interest while suppressing weeds or bordering paths. Some ground covers, pretty in their foliage, will bloom in their season as an extra bonus. Bulbs can still be planted before the ground freezes and it’s so exciting to see their colorful display as a first sign of spring.

Hoses will last longer if they are emptied of water, hung on a peg in the garage, or piled on a shelf. If left outside where they can freeze, they can become brittle and crack under pressure. Containers should be gathered and stored in a shed or garage for the winter, as well as clay birdbaths to prevent them cracking.

Chopped leaves make good mulch spread between roses and marginally hardy perennials. Throw in a handful of naphtha-based moth balls to discourage mice from living in there for the winter. They are also effective rodent deterrents where you are planting bulbs, but note that they are toxic to pets. The trimmed branches of evergreens make wonderful mulch for acid-loving plants like azaleas and rhododendron and to cover mums planted in the ground.

Now that you’ve done all these chores, you can look forward to sitting by the fire while you look through the latest garden books and listen to your favorite music. I’m looking forward to that! ~

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