By LYNNE IRONS
It is difficult to set my priorities this time of year. It is still so warm and pleasant. Should I finish picking and processing those late peppers, tomatoes, and green beans, or should I clean out the wood stove and gather kindling? I had so much to do the other day that I became paralyzed. I sat on a stool and picked dead leaves off the ladies’ mantle. It is rather like organizing the Tupperware when in the middle of a crisis.
At least we didn’t get the threat of a hurricane this fall. I hate when that happens. Talk about too much to do: storing water, batteries and food and putting away possible wind-blown missiles in the yard. Our family refers to it as “cleaning up bucket-town.” Life can be difficult at best. I feel for those residents of tornado alley. Thankfully, here on the Vineyard we do receive adequate warning of impending weather events.
I hauled my geraniums and begonias into the greenhouse. I am hopelessly attached to them. Some have been around for years. I set them around tree trunks and problem areas. If they are in black pots, the pots are invisible and it looks as if they are planted. Some of the geraniums have four or five varieties in one pot. I cut them to the quick and keep them in an unheated room for the winter with just a sip of water every so often. They always come back and give me another season.
The begonias are the Dragon Wing variety. I love them. They are so dependable. They do well in the sun or shade and hold up better than most of the winter. They get leggy and unfortunate-looking but will revive come spring. They will survive in a basement if it gets any light at all.
I love the flowering cabbages and kales that people have used to spiff up their window boxes and pots. I always mean to grow my own but never get to it.
Speaking of window boxes, there are a series of nice ones in Vineyard Haven, including at Zephrus, Bowl and Board, A.E. Kirkpatrick, Leslies, and the Two Susans. One year when I took some boxes apart, I noticed some tiny tubers under the sweet potato vines. Being the adventurous type, I cooked them. They weren’t delicious, but I didn’t die.
The skunks have been quite busy tearing up lawns. There is a bumper crop of grubs for them to enjoy. This would be a good time to apply some Milky Spore disease to the lawns. It will take a year to work but will kill those grubs without the use of poison. Maybe the skunks will move on to killing mice and voles instead.
My son Jeremiah has an incredible burning bush (euonymus alatus or Winged Euonymus). He rescued it on the way to the dump during the renovation of the Chilmark library. It must be 20 feet around. They are particularly impressive next to the yellow foliage of the Rose of Sharon. Check out the entrance to Dodger’s Hole.
Some of the Viburnum have lovely fall fruits. Both the Arrowwood and Erie cultivars are beautiful with blue and red berries respectively. The fruits are loved by birds. Michael Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs has 19 pages of viburnum cultivars.
I planted a late crop of kale and was dismayed to find it covered with tiny cabbage worms. I know the frost will kill them, but don’t know if the baby plants will last that long. I neglected to use Dipel, smugly thinking I would avoid the worm this late in the season. Dipel is an organic bacterium, harmless to everything except caterpillars.
I did manage to toss a few radish seeds into the ground in the middle of September. They look great and should be ready to eat in a couple of weeks. My fall garden gets a little more of my time.
I heard on National Public Radio that the Japanese use half the natural resources that Americans consume. In keeping with that train of thought, I came across this World War II-era slogan in a letter to the editor of The Nation magazine:
Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without!