So farewell—to the little good you bear me.
Farewell? a long farewell to all my greatness!
This is the state of man: to-day he puts forth
The tender leaves of hopes, to-morrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honors thick upon him;
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
And when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,
And then he falls as I do.
Henry the Eighth, by William Shakespeare
The end of autumn is often likened to death. My Grandma Nita was consumed with this thought every fall, and the season began a sadness which didn’t lift until the first buds of spring.
However, I, being an aficionado of autumn, have never believed the comparison fair. Sure, leaves lose their chlorophyll and fall from the trees. The frost and freezes come and chop down most perennials leaving skeletal remains atop the soil, but what about what lies beneath?
Under the earth, activity slows, but does keep moving. Earthworms still tunnel, and with the help of such tunnels and the worms’ nutrient rich casings, tiny plant roots stretch themselves to take up food and water. Other plants hibernate like bears and nap during winter, slowing down and taking a breather before bursting forth again in spring.
Just like everything living on this earth, plants need their rest. The bulbs we plant now grow throughout winter’s cold before later sending shoots above ground into warm air.
To make sure your quietly resting plants have what they need for winter, now is a good time to add an additional layer of mulch. If you have shredded leaves or compost hulls like Back to Nature’s brand (which can be purchased at several locations throughout our state), these are ideal. The worms pull decayed matter deep down into the soil, and what isn’t used remains a blanket on top of gently buried bulbs and roots. Oklahoma’s weather is so unpredictable, one day warm, and the next freezing, and we don’t normally have much snow cover, so mulch helps maintain moisture and soil temperature. You can use wood mulch of course, but it takes much longer to decay and add nutrients and beneficial fungi back into the soil.
Now is also a good time to move any containerized plants you have on your deck or patio up next to the house. This is even more important if your containers are clay or glazed pottery as the freeze/thaw cycle is very hard on these pots. I move anything I haven’t already brought inside up against the east side of my house where temperatures are more moderate. If you didn’t bring in your tropical plants, it is probably too late unless they are the hardy type like certain banana trees sold locally.
You can begin planting bulbs now. I’m still waiting on one order, but I got outside yesterday and planted some here and there. I know it’s chilly, but believe me, you’ll be glad to see these beauties next spring.
After the freeze, you will be able to better see the structure of your garden and what should be moved where. Do you need a different tree in that spot? What about a decorative element here? Take a notebook or a small recorder (like your phone) and make some notes on what you would like to change. Autumn is a very good time for planning.
Feeling out of inspiration? In a few days, I’ll be suggesting some books I really like for winter reading. I spend a lot of my winter thinking about what I’m going to do next spring. However, unlike my dear grandmother, I don’t bemoan this time of rest. The garden and I will be all the better for it.