AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

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October 1, 2011

Hard work in preparation is worth garden's dazzling show

GROVE CITY — I'm often amazed at a garden's abilities. What it can do on its own, with no help from me. Things grow, flowers bloom, vegetables ripen, and all I have to do is watch, pick, eat, and take photographs.

It couldn't be any easier to have a garden, but getting it all started is often hard work: digging, weeding, watering, mulching, spraying, and other action words serve as a reminder that a garden's ability to do stuff on its own comes only after energetic efforts on our part to get it off to a good start. And then the season ends and we see the garden at its most exposed -- withered, brown, dry and empty. Finished.

But it's not quite ready to stop showing off until the first frosty bite of cold weather arrives; probably sometime within the next couple of weeks, we'll see a "solid deposition of water vapor from saturated air" coating rooftops and flower petals. Brrrrr! I'm shivering just thinking about that first frost! I'm glad it's not here yet and I know you are too. We all can enjoy the remaining few days of another successful season as harvest time signals the end of the garden's bounty.

Zinnias, cannas, cosmos, marigolds, dahlias, and a few roses are still blooming. That's plenty enough to make a gardener think that the end of September isn't really here (that and 81 degrees with sunshine as I write this week's article). Allow all those gorgeous blooms to die back on their own, and please cut some for bouquets in the house, before you begin your fall garden cleanup routine. I'm proud of our end-of-summer garden -- AJ, in from college over the weekend, said, "The garden is looking good, Dad."

I wait until long after the first frost before attempting to clean up. And that's all I really do; make an attempt. But that's OK; attempts with your favorite gardening partner can, in some instances, make the chores a lot easier. We'll be using plenty of clean straw on the flower beds and vegetable garden. I've stated many times about the benefits of using straw as mulch, and it also helps keep weed seeds from germinating in spring if you use it as a "cover crop" during winter. Maureen will be planting her garlic soon and she'll use a thick layer of straw over the bulbs once they're in the ground.

A few bales of straw, a bundle or two of corn stalks propped against them, pumpkins aplenty and several containers of fall mums takes only a few minutes to set up as a welcoming autumn display in the front yard.

As another gardening season comes to a close, I try not to think about the long dreary days of winter that we must endure until spring's song returns. But seasons end, always bringing the start of a new one, and winter's rest is needed.

T.C. Conner is a columnist for Allied News. He can be reached at tc@thewritegardener.com. Check out his blog at www.thewritegardener. wordpress.com. His new book, "Through the Seasons with The Write Gardener," is available for sale at Allied News. Story published Oct. 28, 2011.

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