We are quickly closing in on the end of another gardening year with night-time temperatures dipping below freezing and nightfall coming earlier and the dawn dawdling on the horizon. Soon it will be getting even darker, and colder and wetter, while we will be huddled around the fire waiting impatiently for any sign of spring, confined in the depths of a Canadian winter (such as it is in the Lower Mainland) like some aged trapper of old going stir-crazy in the bush – at least he would be busy trapping but we are only busy waiting. It’s time to quickly rouse ourselves to get busy and do a garden cleanup, before it’s too late, to attend to all the things that we’ve put off throughout the summer and fall and to get things ready for the long wait.
I brought in a half yard of soil amender to fill a few holes in my borders, holes brought on by failed experiments, and to plant some newly-divided perennials into the spaces – a gift from a Poco gardener. The soil amender (from Meadows Landscape Supply) is made from the prunings and stump pullings of local landscapers, no sand added, so, being 100% organic (no manures) should be, more or less, ph neutral; I expect that it might be a bit heavy on woody material and, as such, might tend to lock up some nitrogen but I should be able to counter that with some added nitrogen in the spring (and eye of newt, and toe of frog etc.) – I’m planning on using it, exclusively, as my mulch this winter. The alchemy of gardening, the tastes and appetites of plants, and the mysteries of the soil will still elude me but, next year, I will be that much closer to my quarry, or destination – closer to understanding.
The 2011 season will probably go into the record books as the lousiest spring and summer on record, or at least the dullest, wettest gardening season. We didn’t get any decent weather until August which was just in time for the annual summer drought, shortened this year to a month or so, but we all seem to have survived it and, if my reading of averages is correct, that we are not likely to get identical weather two years in a row, a lousy spring and summer this year points to a likelihood of a good spring and summer next year. All we need now is a moderate winter and we can, perhaps, enjoy a banner year to come in 2012. How’s that for rose coloured glasses looking through the lens to the future? Still, that magic summer awaits us somewhere in the future and, like greedy children, we’re ready for it now.
It is the divining beauty of a dream during waking hours. As gardeners, we have to be dreamers or there would be no point, at times, in starting again the next spring. I’ve often thought of the quality of character that we share with farmers; at the mercy of the cruel gods of weather, over which we have no control, and with all of Mother Nature’s weapons of surprise and destruction ranged against us we continue to dream of next year. If farmers live in ‘next year’ country, then so too do gardeners and may the gods bless dreamers and gardeners, hold back the nightmares, bring on the wind and sun and the rain (and what ever else you’ve got up your sleeves) because we will be there, spade in hand (gin & tonic in the other) as ready for battle as yourselves (at least in the beginning) and, by nature, more optimistic, being more foolish, a most valuable quality sometimes.
It’s fun to battle the gods, even knowing that we’ll seldom win, if only to keep them at bay and to wrest from them an occasional victory all the sweeter for its rarity, as it should be – perhaps next year.
I hope to see you all at our Nov 15 meeting, the AGM; we will be electing a few officers and our speaker will be Conway Lum from GardenWorks / Mandeville Gardens, Burnaby; appropriately, his topic will be Winter Gardening. We are fortunate, in Port Coquitlam, to have a climate that can afford us foliage and flowers during the winter so Conway’s presentation will be an opportunity to prepare ourselves to do battle again with the garden gods, to take them by surprise and wrest from them another victory, an entire season – winter.