A great variety of goldenrod is brightening up the back field and around the edges of the garden.
Goldenrod is a sure sign that summer is being transformed into autumn. Close by, delicate, light-blue New England asters are also popping up everywhere.
Although the calendar says autumn doesn’t officially arrive for a few more days, one good look at the backyard garden, a nearby field or the grasses growing wherever they can announces it all: Summer is gone, despite some lingering warm days, and we’d better prepare for autumn and winter.
But until that snow blows, and for the next few weeks, lots can be done and enjoyed outside. For me, autumn is the best time of the year. The sun is somehow brighter and sparklier than during the summer and spring. The warm days are complemented by the cooler nights, prompting thoughts that perhaps we should get all our winter wood in.
And while many vegetables in the garden have ended production for the year, many others are at their peak.
Among them are winter squashes, gourds, root crops including carrots and beets, and, until we have our first killing frost, many herbs.
But it’s good to remember that herbs, particularly basil and some of the more tender ones, cannot withstand any kind of frost.
Running out to cover tomato plants when a frost is predicted may save the tomatoes, but it certainly won’t save the basil. Cabbages, Brussels sprouts, corn and broccoli can also withstand a frost or two. But still, in mid-September, it’s a good idea to start bringing in most of the vegetables that have been growing all season.
While I always can extra tomatoes because I believe they taste much better than freezing them, the cruciferous crops, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are much tastier when they are frozen, if they can’t be eaten fresh of course!
As for cabbage, this hearty vegetable has a very long shelf life and can be stored in the refrigerator for several months.
Our garlic crop this year is exceptionally good. Bulbs are now hanging in the garage until the temperatures really plummet, then they’ll be hung in a back hall that doesn’t quite freeze, but remains quite cold. They will provide lots of flavor to sauces and other dishes until at least March.
The potatoes should be dug, if they haven’t been already, and stored in a dark, cool place. They will also remain good eating for several months.
The fall flowers are also at their peaks. While many of us look at goldenrod and think it is just one weedy flower, our area hosts more than a dozen varieties that help create lovely autumn bouquets for the kitchen table. The small, pale blue New England asters are at their peak, too, and lend themselves to lovely fall bouquets.
Autumn is a wonderful time to get outside and look around at all the intentionally planted and serendipitous plants that surround our homes and populate nearby fields, and to begin thinking about next year and what surprises the magical earth will have in store.
Eileen M. Adams has been gardening for decades. She is still amazed at what the magical earth can provide. She may be reached at email@example.com