From Pipi’s Pasture: Time to let go
November 13, 2015
Each year at about this time, I finally decide it's time to let go of my garden plants. This week's column is dedicated to gardeners similar to me who enjoy watching things grow and have a hard time letting summer go.
Our family garden, located next to Pipi's Pasture, sets on a piece of ground that is prone to frosts, so it's kind of tricky to get the plants up and going before June. If the garden survives the frosts, we're usually in for some hot June winds that leave the cabbages, green peppers, tomatoes, and other nursery plants looking a little scraggly for a while. After that, it's weeding and watering, tasks I enjoy early in the morning after corral chores are finished.
I don't know which is more rewarding — picking produce for the table (and to share with others) or simply watching plants grow. Either way, the growing season is so short here in Northwestern Colorado that gardeners don't get to enjoy it very long.
It's usually about September when one of the nights turns unexpectedly cool — not really cold, but cool enough to cause a garden hose to be a little stiff the next morning. That's when I find a few "nipped" leaves in the garden. It's a warning of things to come. I pay attention to the weather forecasts from then on.
Eventually it happens — a frost warning. Then it's time to start hunting up covers for the plants. I gather up old blankets and sheets, burlap bags, plastic tarps and even feed pans and mineral tubs that are handy since the garden is in the corral area. Some years ago, when our sons and families lived in the area, we literally covered the entire garden with tarps.
Of course, we have to anchor the covers down, too, so that they won't blow off if there's wind. Anchors include shovels, hoes, rakes, pieces of wood and anything else that's handy. (It's a mess to clean up later.)
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Then the ritual begins. Cover everything at night. The next morning after the sun comes up, everything is uncovered. Blankets, sheets, bags and plastic tarps and their anchors are removed from the garden completely if there's watering to be done that day; otherwise, they're pushed to the side. And that night, the garden is covered up again. It's a lot of work, but the payoff is extra zucchini, green beans, green peppers and more. Besides, it seems like a way to hang onto summer a little longer.
This same process goes on at the house with my flowers that are planted in pots at the front of the house and on the patio. I hang onto them as long as possible. I can't help but bring a few pots into the house, even though I know better; there's not enough direct sunlight. However, I can be surprised. One year, a petunia bloomed in the front window all winter long.
I harvest the garden produce little by little, digging carrots and packing winter squash into the house. It's a good thing, too, because after the snow and cold of this past week, everything froze, covers or not. Now, I have covered flowers in the front with sheets frozen over them, covers that will be removed as the weather warms up during the next few days.
So, it's finally time to let go and to look forward to the 2016 seed catalogs that will be coming out about Christmas.