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It’s one of the ironies of gardening in temperate zones (at least, around here) that there’s more to do when the weather is less conducive to it. Spring here is cold and wet: spring cleanup, hardening off, planting out. Autumn here is cold and wet: autumn cleanup, harvesting produce and seeds, winter preparations. On the other hand, summer here is warm and sunny and all there really is to do is watering and occasional pruning. (Pest management and weeding are constant throughout.)

I packed up the water lilies for winter today. The larger of the native fragrant water lilies (Nymphaea odorata) was threatening to split its pot, so I decided to repot it now rather than in spring; it’s one of the hazards of growing rhizomatous plants in containers, and N. odorata is quite the vigourous grower. A few bits of rhizome broke off, so I brought them in and now I have yet another experiment in indoor water gardening. I’m going to pot most of them up and put them in storage, but I’ll drop a few into the aquarium to see what happens over winter.

Other than that, the tomatoes are cleared out, the excess sky-blue asters (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense) are cleared out and such potted plants and bonsai that have gone dormant are coming in.

One next-door neighbour has a large Norway maple (Acer platanoides) that’s just begun to shed its leaves. We try to discourage people from planting those, as they’re very invasive to the local ecologies and they often create problems in gardens. This one, I have to admit, is quite beneficial to me because it shades the western side of my house nicely in summer and provides literally a windfall of leaves in autumn. A lot of homeowners dread autumn leaf-fall, but dead leaves are like gold to gardeners. Usually I just rake them into the beds and let them break down, but this year I’m going to collect as much as I can into a cubic metre bag and let them turn into leafmould over winter. That stuff is better than compost; it’s easier to make but takes longer.

Maple leaves break down relatively quickly; I wouldn’t be able to get away with it with oak leaves, for example, which have high levels of tannin and can take three years to decompose. Conifer needles take even longer. Next to the maple tree is a white birch (Betula papyrifera) that unfortunately probably won’t last much longer. Birch leaves break down quickly too.

Final thought is that it’s the third week of October and while it’s been chilly there hasn’t been a real frost here yet. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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