Days of Grace

– Posted in: Garden chores

The weather has relented a bit for last-minute chores (and last-minute gardeners). The leaves are almost down now, and the tamarack needles make the ground all gold. The cottonwoods and aspens released their leaves in the wind like so much snow-globe sparkle. Mesmerizing. These days with less to do, or less possible to do, are a relief for many of us northern gardeners, time to catch one’s breath and look around a bit.
The two snows we’ve had have rinsed off again and the frost melts back during the day so I can finish my de-mousing cutting back. Cutting back while things are frozen also spares me the slime factor: Primula florindae gets hideous when it’s been frozen. I hate to cut it back before it freezes, so I finally figured out to catch it in the morning while it is still icy & stiff. I have found that a weedeater is prime for major bed clearing, saving many tedious hours of hand trimming. True, I do mangle a few hidden tags and sometimes a few stems, but I stay away from the roses and other woodies as much as I can. Then I finish by hand and rake up all that lovely mouse bedding and haul it to the compost pile. The exposed frozen ground is so much less inviting to the mice that I have far less problems with them decimating the beds before I can get back into them in the spring. And the kittens have been joyously mousing in the newly exposed beds.

About the Author

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4b/5aLocation: rural; just south of British Columbia/Idaho borderGeographic type: foot of Black & Clifty Mountains (foothills of Rockies–the Wet Columbia Mountains in BC climate- speak)Soil type:acid sand (glacial lake bed)/coniferous forestExperience level: intermediate/professionalParticular interests: fragrant & edible plants, hardy bulbs, cottage gardening, alpines, peonies, penstemons & other blue flowers, primulas, antique & species roses & iris; nocturnal flowers Also: owner of Paradise Gardens Rare Plant Nursery

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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