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Mary Lowther column: Taking stock as hot, dry summer ends

Good time of year to assess the garden for the fall, winter and next year’s growing season
The reason we do all this gardening. (Mary Lowther photo)

By Mary Lowther

I try not to complain about the weather; after all, there’s nothing I can do but wait it out. The hot, dry summer had me gardening in the very early morning and cooler evening, seeking midday relief in the frozen foods section at the Country Grocer. I don’t want to give Pete any ideas, but some days he could charge for admission while we decide which package of frozen peas feels coldest.

No doubt about it, when it comes to gardening, the cooler weather is far more inviting than the recent summer heat. As the temperature drops from broil to bake I can spend my afternoons catching up on the gardening chores that have been postponed to avoid heatstroke. Some things are best saved for rainy days, and we haven’t had many of those lately. While harvesting and processing my crop is the first priority, this is also the season for renewed maintenance. My garden shed, for example, has descended into chaos and may now be restored to order.

This is also a good time of year to assess the garden for the fall, winter and next year’s growing season.

All the seeds I planned on sowing this year are in the ground because I don’t expect too much more growth this year, although I expect to plant next year’s garlic at the end of October. I tried planting a few weeks earlier once but was disappointed with the mould that developed on the bulbs the following June, so I am listening to the experts and waiting for Halloween. The cover crop seeds were sown last week and the fall and overwintering crops have sprouted so if we get a few weeks of warm weather the garden should be fine.

I’m also covering a few beds and paths with tarps to see if that kills off the major weed problem I have in the paths. I’ll batten down all the edges to keep out wasps and may have to rototill the beds next spring. Fortunately wasps don’t build nests over the winter, so if there are any nests left in the soil, rototilling will destroy them without risk of my getting stung. After all, David drives the tractor.

I’ve sown a few crops destined to be covered by a cold frame, near the front of the garden so I don’t have to traipse too far to harvest them, and I have pots of herbs in the soil that will be easy to dig up and bring inside for winter use.

I’ll protect the new rosemary plant from cold weather by placing a wire tomato cage over the plant, covering that with plastic and stuffing it with dry leaves. That worked for my new rose bush last year so it should also work for the rosemary. Once the rosemary bush gets established, I shouldn’t need to protect it.

That should keep me busy enough to fill the extra hours the cooler autumn allows. If I want to warm up I can always do some more canning. Wasn’t it a good year for tomatoes?

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.