There is no doubt about it - autumn is in the air. Today we celebrate fall equinox - the crossing of time when our days will become shorter and our evenings longer. It seems our nights are already cooler. Nurseries and flower shops now display assorted varieties of Chrysanthemums instead of colorful spring and summer annuals. The vegetable gardens are slowing down and in some cases have completed their cycle of bearing fruits and vegetables.
While the time seems to indicate putting the garden to rest, the reality is quite the opposite. Now is the time to plant spring bulbs, or a cover crop to add nutrients to the spent soil in the vegetable garden. Fresh thick layers of mulch will keep the roots protected from impending cold temperatures and prevent weed seeds from germinating. It's a time to get your soil tested and add lacking nutrients for amazing results in spring planting.
Don't forget about adjusting shorter run times on irrigation controllers (if you do not have a smart controller), or cleaning, sharpening and oiling gardening tools to extend their lifespan. Look about for container plants to move into protected areas if they are subject to frost damage. Check your supply of sprays that offer plant protection from frost. And keep tarps and stakes at hand for make-shift tents around citrus and other tender plants. Planters filled with spring and summer color can now sport winter color such as violas, calendulas and flowering kale to brighten up the area during gray winter skies.
Now is also a time to visit local nurseries to add those missed colors in our own gardens. In Marin, we can lack the extraordinary display of leaf color found in the east coast, but that is not to say we can't create our own. Some of my favorite plants to achieve this show include trees such as Chinese pistache, sumac, and many varieties of maples and liquidamber. Remember that shrubs also display brilliant colors. Many are found in the old fashion viburnum or witch hazel families. The pink fringe flower and nine bark provide year-round interest as does nandina. Don't forget to add bark interest seen in red twig dogwood, or the beautiful coral bark found in some Japanese maples.
Fall is the ideal time to collect seeds from your garden and share with friends and family. Seek out garden clubs that also delight in sharing the bounty found in their gardens.
Besides the work of preparing for winter, autumn is a time to enjoy the beauty of nature surrounding us as leaves turn various shades of brilliant reds, yellows and oranges. Take a hike through the walking trails in the watersheds found on Mt. Tamalpais, or around the lakes of MMWD. You might notice wildlife preparing for winter as you traverse the many natural trails around.
The list of chores to prepare your garden for winter is long. Don’t forget to take a break and enjoy the changing of the seasons. At the end of a long day toiling in the autumn gardens, prepare a cup of pumpkin spice tea and relish in the sweetness of autumn in the air.
Have a great weekend.