The following post is a reprint from October 2008 but we find it very timely, shall we say "timeless" and with the approval of KCB here we go!
Inhale. Deeply! Now hold it. Isn’t that just the sweetest fragrance? Perhaps I should have told you to step outside first. Go to a window even, open wide then stick our head out and perform the aforementioned exercise.
Something about the aroma of the decaying leaves, coupled with the air that almost bounds your nostrils together during these chilly mornings, feels like home. Not only does it smell like a found memory it sounds like one too. Everyone in New England surely knows the slight bristling sound of dried leaves as they blow across the pavement. What of the sound as you purposely drag them with your feet while you shuffle along? The tinny sound as a metal rake grabs for all the leaves it can in one pass? Followed by the sound of laughter as children and adults alike jump into that waiting pile? Perhaps the in audible murmurings of the creator of such a pile who is trying to watch his words in mixed company? On the other hand, they may be stifling a laugh and vows to make the next pile big enough for the whole family to enjoy.
In my world, another sound can be heard. Clomp, clomp, clomp! Interspersed with the grinding of metal on metal. It is a sound that became all too familiar at the end of last week and will follow me at least through the end of October. What method of machine or tool makes this sound? Well, I do, that is when I am using my hedge sheers. I love my hedge sheers. Not as much as I adore my Felco pruners or my Soil Scoop®. Oh, and I cannot forget my buckets.
You know the kind; they are round, about 2 ½ ft tall, 3 ft wide, with handles of the same material and very flexible as well as versatile. I’ll have you know I have converted several people to being bucket users. I’ve done the same for the scoop. Why a bucket? Invaluable. I use it to put my weeds as I walk on my knees around the various beds. No little piles to pick up later. I use it to mix my soil and composted planting mix when installing any plant into the ground. It is used in the same manner except with potting soil for container time. It can be used for watering though I would only fill it about 3-4 inches. Water is heavy.
During this transplanting/dividing time of year, my bucket(s) are like my sentries. One awaiting the weeds and cut foliage, the other filled with my soil/compost combination. And since I am dividing, a third bucket is added; filled one –quarter to one-third with water. A necessity when separating different plants that have grown together. Also useful if a plant to be divided has extensive weeds growing within and around. Simply dig up the clump, gently shake away the loose dirt, begin to spread the roots w/your hand, and gently place root ball in the waiting water. Wait a few minutes or longer depending on the extent of the entanglement, your patience, and what ever else you may be doing while the plant soaks. It has not been unusual for me to have several different plants soaking in the tub together. I imagine it as a hot tub session for a bunch of plants that rarely have time to get together to simply unwind. It will make for easy work for the separation of plant or weeds from your target. Life is good.
Since I began this writing as a love song to my hedge sheers let me now expound on their virtues. Quick and Easy...that is if the blades are sharp enough. I always have 2 sets, one to use when the other is being professionally sharpened. Moreover, to serve as a back-up for the many occasions I have left my shears behind or simply lost them. It is at this time of year they get the most strenuous of workouts. The work-out I get cannot be denied as well.
Faded Veronica, clomp. Shastas, clomp, Daylilies, Hosta, Coreopsis, clomp, clomp, clomp. With one quick motion it is done. While this exercise may seem random, it is not. It is important to take just enough off but not too much; cut the plants down to within 2-3 inches of the crown. Cutting too close can result in winter injury or even some the buds for next year’s growth being lost as they may be right at the surface or higher and not below the soil line. For the often-temperamental Peony, be careful not to cut or damage the little ‘pink eye’.
I find it vital to remove the foliage and other decaying material that may have accumulated under and around the plant. To do so will help lessen the hiding place for rodents and pests. If you are worried and feel some winter protection is needed then replace all the damp and gooey (I can be so technical) leaves and decaying matter with a dark bark mulch/compost mixture, such as Coast of Maine Fundy Blend, or a mulch of freshly raked dry leaves. If pine needles are available, a mulch would be so enjoyed by all our acid loving plants and shrubs.
So, what has changed with me since I last wrote? Oh, I am still confused, a natural state of affairs for me. Yet less so. The seasons change and so must I. The leaves have made a mass exodus from the stately trees they called home; the foliage and stems are withering and become less attractive with each day. So much more to do. So until the next time…………
KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses