THE HARVEST: A TIME FOR TRANSITION
"This time of year, hard work in tandem with mother nature bring us the best of the Berkshires’ bounty, from late apples and sweet corn to hearty crops like winter squash and earthy root vegetables. It’s time to savor what can’t be stored until we’re sated, then, put up, dry, store, freeze and forage what we can. For me, fall is bittersweet, our abundant harvest tempered by memories of the long freeze ahead.” Amy Cotler, Author, “The Locavore Way”
For many of us, the harvest season invariably conjures up images of glorious foliage, hay rides, and pumpkins as well as delicious scents: baked apple pies, acorn squash with a dollop of maple syrup, roasted chestnuts and turkeys. In our more ornamental gardens, it’s the turn of amethyst purple asters, hot pink fall crocuses (Colchicum), ornamental kales and mums that look more like cramped carnations.
Even though the days are painfully shorter and Jack Frost is wiping out any of our lingering tomatoes and basil, we still have plenty of ways to indulge in the warm earth’s bestowals.
In old English, the word ‘harvest’, originally ‘hærfest’ was equivalent to ‘autumn’ which in German is “herbst”. From eons past, harvest time is about celebration accompanied by a sense of relief. Come November, things are finally winding down.
Returning to our own gardens, here are a few things I suggest for this transition time:
– Perennials: Enjoy your sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Cimicifuga, Joe Pye Weed and other late season flowering plants into the winter. Not only are they beautiful but many contain seedheads that attract song birds.
– Bluebird nest boxes: Remove any nesting material and scrub the insides with a mild detergent and water. Either leave the boxes up over the winter or wait to set them up by March. Just make sure they’re located in an open field or meadow.
– Bird feeders: Bring them back out if they’re not already. Clean them well with a little detergent and water. Suet is another important source of energy during the winter.
Soil: Lightly aerate and add compost. This applies to bare lawn zones which you can still re-seed while the soil is warm. Water and cover with straw to keep moist.
Grasses Keep them through the season — and not only for esthetic appeal but for future bird nesting material. Just cut them back and divide if necessary in the late spring.