We have arrived at the Autumnal Equinox. This Thursday we can officially say it is fall. The days are shorter and the temperatures continue to drop (for the most part). Here is what is happening in the Northern Hemisphere.
“During an equinox, the sun crosses what we call the “celestial equator”—an imaginary extension of Earth’s equator line into space. The equinox occurs precisely when the Sun’s center passes through this line.
After the autumnal equinox, days become shorter than nights as the sun continues to rise later and nightfall arrives earlier. This ends with the winter solstice, after which days start to grow longer once again. ” (information from Almanac -)
For many they are dreading the short days and long nights. As gardeners many are saddened to see the flowers fade and the trees around us blaze out in one last shine of color and then go bare leaving us with long brown branches reaching to the sky. The grass goes brown and the veggie gardens are closed for the winter months – cleared of the summer growth and covered in crisp leaves to rest for a few months.
I am not a fan, any more, of cold winters. My hands and feet feel the cold way more than they use to. Old joints get creaky and I find the change harder to handle but…
I can’t help feeling excited as the trees slowly change from green to yellow or red. The flowers in most of my garden beds are slowing flower production and the greenery looks tired. I am ready to clear it all away. Some things are over grown and straggly and some garden beds never really took off this year so I am more than ready to let them sleep and try again next year.
Fall for me brings a flourish of activity. The deck plants need to be cleaned up looking for insects and spicers that might want to come in for the winter. (Note the Royal Spider that joined the Queens funeral this week – really google it.) There are gardens that I clean up by cutting down plants and clearing the ground for the spring bulbs to surface.
Other gardens stay as they are allowing the plants to stand and provide shelter for critters and insects for the winter. Then there are the tender plants that the rabbits want to eat all winter so they need to be fenced and mulched.
The plants that are not winter hardy and I don’t want to loose get dug up and stored for the winter in a cool dark place. That means the two large begonia plants will be cut back and the tubers (root mass) is stored in a paper bag till next spring. The Elephant ears also get pulled dried and stored.
Next (because I am crazy and I have a new sunroom) I am taking cuttings from some plants that are considered annuals here in Minnesota – things like coleus, and salvia. These cutting I place in water until they root and then plant them in small containers and hope to keep them alive until next spring when they can return to garden. I am also trying to root some hydrangea cuttings but that looks like it is not going well already. In all honesty the coleus and salvia might not make it either but it is worth a try. I could say it is about saving money but really it is just fun to see if I can keep plants growing all winter. ( Who knows I may try and take cutting from the begonia’s and see if they will root that was as well.)
Oh yeah – I almost forgot about the leaves. I no longer rake them but have a young strong fellow who mows chop them up and bag them. I then throw them on the garden beds. They cover the veggie beds, the peonies and a few other flower beds providing protecting for the cold winter. It is putting the beds to sleep.
All this activity happens starting at the equinox and ends in early November or before. It just depends on how cold it gets and how fast I need to work. I have already started taking cuttings from plants and pulled a few of the Elephant ears and are drying those. Next week I will begin the bigger clean up of the garden beds. I am starting earlier this year because creaky joints, and sore hands – basically aging – means this all takes longer than I want it to.
As always I look to spring so my last job of the fall is planting another round of bulbs – daffodils mainly because they are poisonous and the squirrels, chipmunks, voles and rabbits won’t eat them.
Then I rest! There is a fire out back in the brisk fall air. There is a fall quiet that arrives – the beauty of open land, the details of huge old tree branches reaching out in patterns across the cold blue sky and time to reflect. It is a time where I sit with a cup of tea, maybe a scone and watch. I watch for that first hard frost and then later the snow that leaves the world white and fresh. Those are beautiful moments that I can not wait to see each fall and early winter.
Ok, in reality I am running after my grandson who is three – the tea is sitting getting cold on the table and the scone is just a thought but a good one. We do go walking in the leaves swishing our feet and looking for milkweed to open and blow out into the neighborhood. We do go out and sit by the fire while he runs wild up and down the back hill and through the leaves covering the plants and throwing them back out into the yard but hey you are only three once and so I let him – we are the indulgent grandparent for sure! Somewhere in here we will make apple sauce and pumpkin shaped cookies with orange frosting everywhere and enjoy a Halloween party with all his little friends – an outdoor fire, apples, hot coco and more.
How can one not be excited about fall and then the silent long nights of winter where the garden magazines come back out and I begin to plan for spring once Little Man has gone home for the day!
With that I will end this writing and go put on a tank top – it is in the 90’s right now with high humidity since I refuse to cook in one more hot day we will walk to the neighborhood bar for a bit to eat.
Tomorrow they promise temperatures of 60’s and we can begin fall on Thursday. Tonight it is still summer!