In the garden with Felder: Plenty to do in autumn, but take time to reflect

October 6, 2018 10:02:19 PM

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Everyone has their favorite season, but to me autumn is the best, a time to set out a little stuff for winter and next spring while wrapping up the summer garden, then basking in recollections. 

 

There are chores to do, some more satisfying than others. This week is perfect for moving red spider lilies while we know where the good bloomers are, before they start sprouting roots and foliage. Time to sow seed of mixed lettuces in small pots and set out attractive kale plants for all-winter soups and tuck little purple and yellow violas here and there for sweet faces to smile back at me. 

 

We can put off more mundane things, like draining gas from the mower, string trimmer and leaf blower to prevent fuel lines gunking up over the winter, at least 'til they're done with for the season.  

 

But for me, it's a good time to de-shamble my little outhouse-shaped toolshed. Some of the stuff's gotta go.  

 

Many gardeners aren't aware that, unlike herbicides and fertilizers, opened bottles of insecticides start to lose potency after just a few months. Luckily my city has a drop-off day where unused poisons, paints and the like can be dropped off for safe disposal. But, though it seems a bit environmentally unfriendly, the state environmental quality folks say it's OK to carefully wrap small containers of leftover stuff and put out with the trash.  

 

And I'm spending a lot of time neatening my yard to make it more relaxing in the cooler evenings ahead. Replacing burnt bulbs in the landscape lights. Hanging new strands of chic overhead lights. Trying out a new weatherproof fan installed to keep air moving and 'skeeters at bay, and basking with outdoor speakers that connect wirelessly to phone and computer playlists.  

 

One of my great-grandmother's old iron cooking kettles is now a splashy water feature, its inexpensive water pump throwing out a soothing "white noise" that drowns all background sounds except the cicadas' sing song. Gotta clean out sunken leaves and gunk, which'll go onto my leaf pile.  

 

Another family heirloom iron kettle is used as my cherished fire pit, the smoke of which conjures childhood days spent picking up pecans for a nickel a pound and dragging fallen limbs to the leaf burn pile (which is largely illegal nowadays). But anyone can enjoy a safe patio fire by getting an inexpensive one from a garden supply store, or with just a circle of rocks a few feet away from anything flammable. 

 

We all can go on and on about our sometimes interchangeable to-do and ain't-gonna-happen lists, with plenty of time to sort them out. But autumn is also a time to reflect, take stock of what did well this year and what failed miserably.  

 

I usually end each year with a Felder Fesses Up column reliving my failures and foibles, and there's time to add more to this year's. But though I will never regret having tried new plants, some which simply melted this hot, humid summer, I will always champion the tried and true, the heirlooms passed from garden to garden with no regard to differences between the gardeners.  

 

So before I get around to the tool shed, the loose tumble of firewood, the sooty mold on my pink flamingos from sticky insect drippings raining out of the trees, the empty pots where once-beautiful plants suffered and died from neglect, and figuring out where to plant new stuff, is a more important fall task. 

 

I have my great-grandmother's red spider lilies to dig and share, while I know where they are.  

 

Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the "Gestalt Gardener" on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to rushingfelder@yahoo.com.