Autumn Descends

By September 10, 2012 Day-to-Day, My Garden 7 Comments

I went outside yesterday and it was fall.

Pretty much like that. Wham. The day before had been summer, without much question, and today it was fall, and that was the end of the matter.

The air was cool and damp instead of hot and muggy and I looked at the garden and instead of thinking “Oh christ, what a mess!” I looked at it and thought “Oh christ, what a mess, I must fix it right this minute.”

That’s the sign right there.

Our weather went from scorching drought to torrential rain. Everything is squelching. The tomatoes couldn’t take take the shift and rotted out. I cleared them out this morning, along with a watermelon that had served its time. (It would likely have produced another melon or two, but we’ve had enough watermelon for awhile, and it was trying to eat the basil.) I had previously taken out the crookneck squash, which would have happily kept going all fall, but again…enough is enough.

The garden looks very bare without them. It’s all peppers and basil and ferocious nasturtiums and Mexican sour cucumbers. And the scarlet runner beans, of course, which ate the deck and the world and which I had to savagely chop back from eating the blueberry bushes.

Brought in a couple of handfuls of jalapeno and Anaheim peppers, which Kevin is slow-drying in the oven. The house smells of peppers, and we have the windows open, so it also smells a bit of leaf mold and you can hear the birds squirping in the trees.

I have decided that one of the native sunflowers needs to go. It’s a gorgeous plant, but it flops like the devil, and it’s on so many little stalks that staking is just an exercise in torment. I shall relocate it to the drainage ditch out front, where it can spread with great enthusiasm and get seven feet tall and fall over and no one will care. I’m thinking chokecherries for the space. It wants something tall and open, but not floppy, and I’ve got a couple of chokecherries in pots back here looking for a home.

There’s a stage of gardening when you’re just thrilled anything will grow, and then there’s the stage after it when you realize that you have the power to uproot a happy plant because it is the WRONG plant for the spot. I am moving—slowly—into that stage. It’s a bit scary.

Moved a couple of loads of mulch. Fought the Japanese stiltgrass. I think that’s the next big scourge here. Successfully ID’d a couple of plants growing wild, however, and am delighted to see more native camphor pluchea (probably descended from my big one) and the native annual partridge pea, which is about the only thing that will grow through the stiltgrass. There’s also something called “beefsteak plant” which is a non-native escaped-from-cultivation plant, aka “Chinese basil.” I am not thrilled with it, but it’s a minor concern besides the stiltgrass. (Scraping the drive and clearing trees from the sides made a big ‘ol stiltgrass bonanza, and it’s completely overgrown the area I was hoping to keep as a wetland. The trees and shrubs are still managing, through, so I’m hoping they’ll make a difference and that I’ll be able to get stuff well established next spring before the stiltgrass gets going.) Still not sure how to manage this.  I’d need a whole team to clear out all the stiltgrass by hand, and we do not do pesticides on a wetland area.

Working on mulching the final path. This fall I will finally get the patio dug, goddamnit. That’ll make a difference. Once it’s in, I can layout the last bed, and start in on ground covers. If I can just get some solid groundcovers down, the weed load drops significantly, and I can make holes for shrubs and perennials. I’m having good luck with a prostrate St. John’s Wort called “Appalachian Sun” that’s native to this neck of the woods. The Meehania croaked anywhere it got any sun at all, but does great in the shade under the hose connection. Green-and-Gold “Eco-Lacquered Spider” continues to be a rock star, and I’ve plunked down enough woolly thyme to make a small herbal mammoth.

I don’t want to get too ambitious in the garden until I get back from my trip next week, but I’m definitely feeling the hey-it’s-another-growing-season-get-your-ass-out-there-and-plant twitch. Starting to worry about the garden being TOO big and being too busy to keep it up, too, but that’s another post and hey, for that, there’s always mulch.




  • Dot says:

    I’ve heard all about stiltgrass. My poor father… he finally beat back the kudzu, only to turn around and find himseld surrounded by stiltgrass. I think at this point he has conceded defeat.

    On another note, love the garden blog! I share it with my parents (we are all in the very bottom of VA, not too far away) so they love reading what your doing with native species.

  • cimetis says:

    Just letting you know, the “beefsteak plant” has delicious leaves. A slightly sharp flavor, it’s great in salads and is used in traditional Korean cooking. So if you really don’t want it there, just eat the leaves until it’s gone. 😛

  • Cinda says:

    I found you through Beautiful Wild Garden and such and just have to tell you how much I enjoy reading your posts. There are some people that post there that I can skip, but I can’t ever skip you. I live in the mountains of VA so feel a kinship with concerns such as stiltgrass…but it’s the chuckles I get from the way you write that keeps me an avid fan. And so I clicked a link on your bio and found myself over here. What talent! I’m so impressed. I do believe that “writer” needs to be added to your many titles; I know I just can’t get enough!! Thank you for sharing all your talents with us!

  • Cinda says:

    Guess I should have looked around your site a bit more before posting my comment…you ARE a writer of many things already, and I’m just thrilled!! 🙂

  • Wendy Mathison also known as Mama Otter says:

    Now is this Japanese stiltgrass and not Japanese knotweed? We just finished a fiver year battle with knotweed at our house which started the week before we moved in. I had to take the machete to it and cut it all down like the bamboo it was. the previous tenant (we were now taking over the house to own) planted it –an invasive Asian species — so he didn’t have to take care of any of the side yard. The stuff hard roots as thick as my leg.
    Even if it isn’t knot weed but is stilt grass, you might try covering an area of overgrown with carpet and don’t let it come out through the weave or under it. That’s what we finally did, packed the entire area in carpet for 3 long years (with me jumping up and down on it to break off any stems). I was so paranoid at the end and still are. I watch for those red stems in the yard.
    I do so love your Art. I have St. Otter and the Egg as a Desktop at Work and my co-workers consider me odder than most. I tell them “that is correct — otter than most”.
    I hope you didn’t think I was preaching on your stilt grass. I hear invasive grass and I get flashbacks!

  • Ellen says:

    Try using a weed whacker on the stiltgrass now (before it goes to seed). It should be too late in the season to regrow enough to flower. And it’s an annual so you just need to keep it from flowering and it will die come frost.