(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 25,2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Everyone has their own list of autumn garden chores, whether divided by zone, by patio, lawn and flower beds, or by the order in which they should be done. I think all these lists are a wonderful idea, but every year I am surprised by how quickly it gets so cold in New England.
I am always cold. I wear long underwear from September to June, generally, and this year, the year without a summer, I'm not sure I took it off more than once or twice! (This has to do with my Multiple Sclerosis; I wasn't always like this.) So while I admire and respect other people's lists, at this point, late October, it's way too cold for me to consider doing most of these things. When others are waxing poetic about how crisp and brisk the air feels, I'm rummaging around for my mittens and scarves.
I found Dave's Garden member BLOSSOMBUDDY—wow, what organization! This gardener not only has lists for this year, she has her calendar for next spring all filled in with dates to sow certain seeds, some inside and others outside, which date to start looking for lobelia in garden centers and which date to get her hanging baskets up. I fear I could never live up to BLOSSOMBUDDY's high standards, but if you're a subscriber to Dave's Garden, check out her thread here.
My own personal list looks something more like this:
2. Bring houseplants inside after their summer vacation. This requires the cooperation of my Darling Husband, as some of them are too big to lift. I've never had a problem with bringing bugs inside, but some folks do, so they hose their plants off thoroughly before readmitting them to the inner sanctum.
3. Empty potting mix and dead annuals out of containers. Store potting mix for possible reuse, fortified with mostly new mix, next year. Scrub out pots and store upside-down in the shed. Store particularly valuable or irreplaceable pots indoors.
4. Plant all those bulbs you bought so thoughtfully once they've arrived! Use a shovel and do them in a big swath. Soak the anemone corms overnight.
5. Take the amaryllis bulbs, whose foliage was soaking up the sun all summer, inside before they freeze (!) and put them in the cold garage until it's time for them to bloom.
6. Clean up the patio (or get somebody else to do it). We won't be grilling anymore this year, the pepper plant is done and the Earth Box has run its course. (Next year, consider planting herbs along the bottom layer to deter pests.) Sweep the patio one last time.
7. Run over the leaves with the lawn mower so they can disintegrate and feed the lawn. Mow the lawn one more time. Use the compost from all those chopped horn worms and kitchen scraps to top dress the flower beds.
8. Maybe this should be the year I do something nicer for the roses, like covering them with hay or straw. They always look so whipped after the winter. If protecting them somehow just a little lets them bounce back faster in the spring, I might try it.
8. Clean up the final remnants of winter sowing. Next spring will come soon enough, I hope.
THUMBNAIL PHOTO COURTESY OF JUDITH BROUG OF WWW.MISSYREDBOOTS.COM AND MORGUEFILES.COM; MY UNDYING THANKS TO YOU AND TO LARRY RETTIG FOR THE PHOTO OF THE BLUE SCILLIA. THE OTHER PHOTOS ARE MY OWN.