Here’s the deal – most gardeners will tell you that Autumn is the time to cut back, clear and tidy borders ready for winter, lift tender bulbs, rake and prepare the lawn – busy, busy, tidying and organising.
However, for me, this is a time to embrace the magnificence of an Autumn garden – a time to celebrate a change of season, a farewell to summer and the welcome of a winter coming. Time to study and be amazed by the colours, watch how nature prepares in plants, birds, insects – to become intrinsically involved with the season – preparing yourself mentally, physically and fill your store cupboards with beautiful abundance that autumn has to offer. Here is how I like to prepare for Autumn in the garden.
In the Garden I have three don'ts:
- Don’t tidy the leaves on the ground let them form hides
- Don’t go into your flower beds and cut back and tidy the dead stems of the plants which will be festooned with seed heads
- Don’t rake, cut too close or add anything to your lawn, in fact please, please leave a little piece of lawn to go wild and see what magic arrive
You can do these tasks of clearing stems, organise the lawn etc in spring when the birds and insects have used the cover for shelters and food.
The suggested Autumn do’s:
- Do start to plant out your bulbs for next year i.e. tulips, daffodils, snow drops and of course lots of garlic.
- Do start a plan over autumn of how you would like your garden to look next year i.e. wild areas, new trees and plants, a pond even – make your garden a paradise for wildlife.
- Do continue to harvest your vegetables and fruits and work on encouraging your winter crops.
How a garden in Autumn can help us personally is about passing, letting go and embracing the change, internalising all that autumn has to offer - a garden, park, wood or even a window box can give you this opportunity.
Watch everything; how the colour of the leaves move to such beauty and then fall to enrich the earth, watch birds feeding from the seed heads of the plants in a beautiful dance of nature how the seeds feed the birds and how in turn the seeds are returned to the earth, watch and follow the wind as it moves through the garden, watch the spectacular Autumn sunset and the soft sunrise.
Listen to everything; how the wind talks to the trees and how the leaves speak in different languages; listen to the rain and how the sound changes on different materials; listen to the crack of the broadbean pod as you prepare to eat; listen to the silence of winter coming.
Take in all the smells of Autumn – pick up a handful of fallen leaves and the smell is intoxicating, take time to inhale the last rose, how rain has different scents, pick up a clod of earth as you dig up your potatoes and breath in its life source.
Feel it all – how the leaves are thicker and heavier and how they feel soft, light, translucent even at their end, walk bare foot and feel how the ground has cooled down, how the grass feels when wet, the wind in your face and the rain in your hair - even stand in a night naked when a autumnal rain shower happens, how the air is warm and the rain feels cold, a complete mixture of both worlds – it can feel dangerous yet homecoming, energy charging and purifying, such a gift.
Internalise the bounty of Autumn – pick apples, pears, plums, make jams, cordials and preserves. Feast on the beans, potatoes, kale, courgettes – if you’re lucky enough to own a greenhouse pick fresh tomatoes, aubergines, chillies and cucumbers.
If you have grown none of these find a farmers market, go to a pick your own but make sure they are local, fresh and chemical free to really taste the difference. Collect the last of the fresh herb leaves like mints and lemon balm so you can make the last fresh herbal teas of the season, then dry the rest to see you through winter.
You may feel that this blog was to be full of real garden advice well I am sorry but I feel very strongly that your gardens are a source of food, beauty and relationship - a relationship with nature to give as well as take, a loving embrace that gets deeper over time and Autumn is when that partnership is at is most profound.
Autumn is the best of seasons to bring alive nature, to be involved at all levels not to tie, prune and clear but create habitats for wildlife by leaving, encouraging and following the precious circle of life as all forms prepare for the oncoming of winter.