I am a perennial optimist; I always hope next year’s garden will surpass this year’s. But hope alone won’t make it happen. So, when mornings sport a coat of frost and all but the hardiest crops have died, it’s time to put the garden to bed. I layer on my grungiest clothes and go play in the dirt.
Black twiggy stalks are all that’s left of the string bean plants that produced such abundance in the summer. The pepper stalks look identical. The only way I know what they had produced is by their location in the garden. I pull them all up and shake off the dirt. Pull up those hardy, opportunistic weeds too. “Out with you,” I tell them. If they stay, they’re apt to reproduce and then I’ll be greeted by a harvest of weeds in the spring.
The kale is still doing well, as is some of the lettuce, so I’m careful to work around them. A plastic dome goes over a patch of lettuce. We’ll be able to harvest it for a few more weeks.
Then it’s time to dig. To my happy surprise, I find my composter filled with beautiful black compost. I layer it under the top foot of soil, and try to transfer soil from one corner of a plot to another. I’m not sure why it works but garden wisdom tells us to mix it up.
Then I cover the garden plots with straw. It’s supposed to keep down the weeds and, when it degrades, adds to the nutrients in the soil. The work in the autumn chill tires me out. With a warm cup of cocoa in hand, I look out at the beds neatly topped with straw comforters. We are ready for winter.