Time to clean up the garden, but not too much. Time to remove the dead and diseased bean vines and tomato leaves, pull the bindweed and wayward grass, and bag it all up for the city compost facility.
How does ONE plant put out HUNDREDS of tomatoes in just a few short months? We never had a chance of keeping up with the yellow pear toms, despite plucking some every day on the way to the car, gifting them all over town, and ultimately, making sauce. Now we have a freezer full of cheerful yellow sauce, so I’m sure I’ll catch some grief for my homemade psychedelic lasagna come February.
(Charlie does what he can to catch the stray tomatoes lost in the grass.)
I’m mourning my uneaten milkweed (I planted both Asclepias incana and A. tuberosa), but I’m rejoicing in the feathery seeds. I haven’t decided yet whether I feel guilty about strewing seeds in my neighbor’s weed patch, quietly dropping a few here and there around the back alley like the infamous Miss Willmott and her “ghost” seeds. With any luck, we’ll have enough milkweed next year to attract a few Monarch butterflies.
We had an enormous praying mantis living in a small flowerbed beside the back porch this summer. I was afraid she’d fled when workmen tore up and replaced most of the floorboards, but she reappeared a few days after they left. She startled me while I was watering but I was so glad to see her!
Two things have amazed me this summer: the intensity of plant growth once the rain stopped, and the abundance of certain insects like butterflies and praying mantis. I was lucky to meet a lovely young entomologist, Sara, who helps me identify the weird things I find in my yard, including TWO egg cases, one each of a native and non-native praying mantis.
(I’ll save my “Sara and the hornet’s nest” story for another day… )
If you find something that looks insect-made, perhaps a lumpy strange thing attached to a branch, err on the side of biodiversity and toss it into a safe shrub. Maybe even the neighbor’s shrub. You might find bugs kinda icky, but you needn’t kill them.
My autumn cleanup is intentionally unthorough. I’ve left areas of my modest yard a bit messy in a way insects and soil microbes (among many others) find hospitable – leaves piled up beside the shrubs, a bit of “chop-n-drop” between the perennials. It provides a bit of winter moisture and insulation to the beneficial bugs we want to see again next year, like ladybugs and fireflies and praying mantis.
Let your lawn grow long, give the compost a stir, and otherwise enjoy these beautiful, cool autumn days and nights.
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