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And So, To Bed (11/04/2012)
By Vicki Englich

I resisted bedtime as a child. I dawdled, taking my sweet time to put away my toys for the night. As a woman of a certain age, I now have no trouble surrendering to slumber, but I still find myself locked in that pattern of resistance: I just hate to put the garden to bed.

Each spring I cart out all of the terra cotta pots and planters as well as the assorted garden art that satisfies my whimsy. Itís just like pulling out Play Doh, puzzles or the doll I called Nora as young girl. I think nothing of celebrating the warmth of the new season by planting as much as I can get by with in pots and in the ground. By fall, however, Iím singing a different tune. Putting pots away or cutting back dead plant material is not cause to celebrate: I dawdle, taking my sweet time, putting off the chores for another day.

I actually like winter until February, and we really do need a period of dormancy. Many plants, like peonies and lilacs, need the frozen temperatures in order to bloom again in the spring. Snow is a perfect mulch for perennials, and melting snow will seep slowly into the earth, loosening it up so that spring rains donít just run off into the streets and storm sewers.

I try to cut down the brown stalks to avoid fungal diseases in the future. I rake the fallen leaves into the garden beds to serve as mulch. On sunny, warm days this is a pleasure--except I often put off these things to do other things deemed even more pleasant at the time. This is when the gardener needs, well, a gardener.

Lest you think Iím too much of a slug, the raised beds are clear. I just harvested the Brussels Sprouts. They can take a bit of frost; it actually sweetens them up. The backyard compost pile is heaving with the remains of pepper plants, zucchini and eggplant stalks. The plot at Wahapasaís Prairie Community Garden is now bare; all remnants of tomatoes, peppers, and beans happily composted. The birds enjoyed seeds from the sunflower heads nodding in the air. An application of llama beans in each bed, and Iím done. I have a friend who raises llamas, and their manure, affectionately called llama beans, is a slow release fertilizer that is wonderful in vegetable garden beds. Beans donít require the same time to ďmatureĒ as other manures. Still, Iím applying it in the fall so it decomposes naturally, and I donít have to disturb the soil too much when I plant next spring.

Meanwhile, I am able to savor the roasted tomato sauce, eggplant sauce, salsa, and the pickled peppersóall from my very own beds. My neighborís apple tree yielded jars and jars of applesauce, apple butter, chutney, and a fabulous apple-ginger marmalade that we will enjoy this winter. I dried enough basil to last until next summer, and thereís pesto in the freezer. Life is good. And so, to bed. 


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