By the time October arrives, I’m tempted to “throw in the trowel,” especially after a summer as hot, dry, and smoky as this one has been. I’m tired of hauling the hose to water the containers on my deck. I’m tired of pulling weeds that manage to stab my hands even inside of gloves. I’m even tired of eating chard, chard, and more chard. (Note to self: five or six plants is plenty!) I’m ready for fall, with its orange leaves, warm days, and brisk nights, but I’m not at all ready for winter’s drab colors and bare branches.(more…)
While some species are easy to identify, many birds present challenges. Look-alike species such as scaups (below), sandpipers, gulls, and the notoriously difficult Empidonax flycatchers, are enough to keep birders working to improve their skills for years to come.
But as if that wasn’t hard enough, just as we begin to feel confident, fall arrives. Birds are migrating, males become drab and the world is flooded with a new crop of immature birds. It makes me feel like a beginner birder, all over again!(more…)
We’re nearing the end of August, and both the garden and the gardener are… tired. This has been a long, hot, summer, and the entire state of Colorado is in a drought. The unending parade of 90+ degree days, unusual for our elevation, has left the plants bedraggled, the flowers faded, the leaves with crispy brown edges.
The large pots of color on our deck are the worst. The violas that looked so pretty in June are now covered with powdery mildew. In spite of what the seed packets promised, the cosmos and zinnias grew too tall, towering over the petunias, and the snapdragons stayed too short. My chard leaves are tunneled with leaf miners, and it’s nearly impossible to keep them sufficiently watered. (Memo to self—do not plant chard ‘Bright Lights’ in a container with more xeric annuals, no matter how colorful the stems or how many seedlings are left over after planting the veggie beds!)
I did it again. Last spring, in a fit of gardening fervor brought on by the first flowers of the season, I put in an order for more spring bulbs, to be delivered in the fall. With my yard full of crocuses, glory of the snow, and miniature irises—and not much else—it was easy to see where those new bulbs should be planted.
Now it’s October, and I just received delivery. Yes, my box of bulbs arrived just ahead of our first snowstorm of the season. Now I have to plant them. Today.
What was I thinking?
I’m still picking lots of veggies—tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, squash, beans, chard, and herbs such as basil and parsley. Yet, fall starts in a few days and nights are already dipping into the 40s. That first frost can’t be far behind.
Here in Colorado, it’s now too late to plant most fall crops, as the short days and cold nights won’t let them mature before it snows. You can plant stiff-neck (hardy) garlic, however. Space the individual cloves about six inches apart and bury them about three-times their height. Spread a layer of mulch over the bed and relax. That’s one crop you won’t have to bother with later. (more…)
On the bank of the Shiawassee River, in central Michigan, Shiawassee NWR was touted as “a critical migration stopover site for waterfowl.” We were there on the last day of August, just over a year ago. With habitats ranging from marshes to forests to prairie, and a long list of bird species, some of which I’ve rarely (if ever) seen, I was hoping to see more than just waterfowl.
One of the joys of living in Colorado is the gorgeous gold of the aspen in fall. Other regions may boast more colorful foliage—the reds and purples of the hardwood forests to the east, for example—but nowhere else do we get the combination of cobalt blue skies, spectacular mountain scenery, and shimmering golden leaves. Such a treat is not to be missed, so we recently joined some friends and went leaf “peeping.”
If the cooler weather and turning leaves haven’t alerted you, the calendar can’t lie. Tomorrow is the first day of autumn. Can our first frost be far behind? It’s tempting to let the change of seasons put a stop to gardening for the year, but there’s still much to do. (See my previous post on “Putting Your Garden to Bed” for ideas.) Of course we know that many spring-blooming bulbs go in the ground now. But how about perennials, shrubs, and even trees? Can we plant (or transplant) them now? Even for those of us who live in places with cold winters, fall is a terrific time to plant.
When we think of crocuses, we imagine the first flowers of spring, daring the cold and snow to herald the coming change of seasons. And just as crocuses start the growing season, they can also be among the final flowers of fall. You may know them as Meadow Saffron or Naked Ladies (although that name also belongs to Amaryllis belladonna)—these goblet-shaped pink–to-purple flowers that spring leafless from the ground in early autumn. They don’t last long, only two or three weeks, but their presence when all else is fading makes them worth the effort.
I didn’t plant this year’s veggie garden until mid-August. No, I wasn’t procrastinating. I just had to wait for the new boxes to be built, filled with topsoil and compost, and the drip lines put into place. While we moved to our new house in May, the landscaper didn’t start until the end of July—and my veggie boxes turned out to be the last thing they did.
Now I have two 4-foot wide raised planters, each about 10 feet long. (My garden got downsized along with the rest of my life.) I love the “rumble stone” bricks we used—they’re comfy to sit on as I weed and harvest. The boxes are a little over two feet tall (they’re on a slope, so it varies) and we filled them to about 10 inches from the top. I wanted some headroom for adding future amendments and so I can lay clear panels over the edges to create coldframes as needed.