By late October, the tourists or what we call “leaf-peepers” are gone. They love to come and take endless photos of the lovely red, orange and yellow maples leaves and experience the hues and glows of the autumn colours. They also tie up traffic.
By late October, the hard- and softwood leaves take on the look of washed-out watercolours, eventually resting on the forest floor. Only the yellow needle-like leaves of the tamarack (larch) and the green needles of the firs and other conifers are left standing. A late cold October sun shining through them is a glory to behold. It almost makes the other gray, raw days seem bearable.
November is a quiet time, a period in between, a space where we wait for the snows to come. In the year 2000, we had three inches of snow on October 29, but that was early and only stayed for a day. The folks that live in the higher elevations and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont always experience colder fall temperature, earlier snows and longer winters than I do in the warmer Lake Champlain valley.
November is the last time of the year to finish garden chores unless you are one of those non-stop gardeners who grow greens in their greenhouse all winter. My energy level begins to wane but there are a couple more tasks yet to complete. I cover some of my raised beds with leaves so the earthworms can have a good meal, pick those sweet Brussel sprouts, cut off some kale orchard and dig beets and carrots.
Many root cellars are full and while my pantry is packed with canning jars full of summer’s bounty. The cold frame still has some fall greens waiting to be picked. The compost has been spread and dug into my garden. It’s comforting to know that the garden has been laid to rest.
The Canada Geese have now flown south and at last, there ain’t no more weeding to do. Perhaps I’ll sit in the easy chair next to the woodstove and think back to early spring when the first seeds germinated and the young green plants grew in summer, finally producing their fruits in fall. There is much to be thankful for.
I know from years of experience that working in the fall garden is like insurance for the spring. I temper this with the idea that even though the gardening season is complete, the end is just another beginning. Of course, some tasks do not get done—like the sumac patch that continued to grow and further its expansion.
But that’s OK.
Sometimes we forget that the strong red hues of the sumac add glory to the symphony of autumn colours.
Read another gardener’s reflections on gardening in DROP THE GLOVES: Get your hands dirty and connect to your garden>>
Ron Krupp, teacher, writer, entrepreneur and community organizer, has been farming and gardening in Vermont for more than thirty years. He has a master’s degree in teaching from Antioch University and a master’s degree in agriculture from the University of Vermont. His book The Woodchuck’s Guide to Gardening is going into its tenth printing, and he can be found online at Woodchuck’s Gardening.