The autumn garden

By Lois Ann Dort    

GUYSBOROUGH – Typically when we think of the garden at this time of year we think of the harvest. It’s time to get all of the vegetables in before frost starts to nibble at the leaves.

But if harvest is the only gardening chore you can think to do in September and October, Sharon Bryson, the Nova Scotia Association of Garden Clubs director for the Eastern District, has some news for you: harvest is just the beginning. On Monday, September 26 Bryson spoke to the Guysborough and Area Garden Club on the topic of fall gardening.

Bryson started her presentation with a discussion of moving and dividing plants. For many perennials fall is the best time of year for such activities. It gives the plants time to settle into their new locations over the winter and does not risk destroying new roots, as dividing often does, in the spring.

Herbaceous plants fair best when uprooted at this time of year. “Big shrubs would sulk badly,” Bryson noted, if moved in the fall.

Then there is the planting. Fall, as many gardeners know, is time to plant bulbs. Many bulbs, such as lilies, root out in the fall and put up new shoots in the spring. If thinning bulbs with an eye to replanting, keep them moist and plant in deep soil. Bryson cautioned, “Label the spot you planted the bulb. You don’t want to put your spade through it in the spring do you.”

One of the more unexpected tips Bryson brought to this meeting of mostly experienced gardeners was planting a cover crop to increase soil nutrients, reduce weeds, and protect the soil surface between seasons. Her favourite plant for this purpose seems to be buckwheat but she also advised broadcast sowing clover or winter rye as a means to the same ends.

Unfortunately fall does not mean an end to weeding, according to Bryson. She advises gardeners to clear weeds and prepare beds with mulch before the coming winter. This will cut down on preparation in the spring and at least can be done in cooler weather now.

While Bryson does advocate for top dressing-- compost, eelgrass, or manure-- for overwintering garden beds she admitted that it does not always happen, not even on her own property. “I didn’t do that last year but we did not go to wrack and ruin because of it,” she chuckled.

As surely as fall brings harvest it also brings leaves. Often considered a nuisance, Bryson encourages gardeners to look upon them as a resource. Collected and composted, leaves can add a lot of nutrients to the garden. All it takes is a little work and patience.

Bryson concluded her talk by stating that gardening is a lifetime of trial and error. Her husband Bill Wilgenhof, who is her partner in all things garden, said philosophically of their home garden which is featured on the webpage http://willowgarden.net/ , “It was a struggle, but a beautiful struggle.”