Tucking in the garden for its long winter nap is all yin. Last week, as the first frost blustered in over our shoulders from the northwest, we pulled up tomato stakes and cages and rolled up hundreds of feet of irrigation hose. All around us, everything looked as it shouldgray and brown, cold and clumpy, a dormant garden slumbering. It’s work for the year is done. The exuberant yang of springthe nurturance, the hope, the willpower of the tiny sets and seedsis now five full moons ahead.
We had a great season, even though the bountiful stalks and runners of our tomatoes are now hollow skeletons. The green peppers finished strong, and the chickens feasted on their robust leaves for Thanksgiving. We harvested the sweet potatoes three weeks ago, just as the Farmer’s Almanac instructed, so they could cure and be ready to accompany the cranberry sauce and green beans to the feast-day table. The local deer herd took a liking to the sweet potato vines and knocked down the fence a few times. All the garden fencing needs to be reclaimedboring work that’ll have to wait until the spring offers its annual energy boost and inspiration.
Spindly drapes of morning glory vines and spiderwebs loop between fence posts and old tomato towers. The beautiful plants have been coveted by various cultures for centurieseither serving in ancient rituals or coaxing the counter-culture in the ’60s. Now I just try to throw arms full of seedpods over the coop, 20 feet away, without them popping open. At every dewy sunrise, the arcing cobwebs glisten, an eerie visual explanation of “nothing’s happening here.”
Pulling up the bigger weed root balls reveals errant white potatoes and ghost gourds, nature’s original regifters. A lone asparagus bush looks as proud as a Christmas tree, complete with bright tiny green ornaments. Strands of red and orange plastic twine, leftovers from bales of pine straw, hang on a cedar pole. They’re perfect for all kinds of rural repair missions.
Over the next few months, the winter garden landscape will absorb bushels of chicken compost and ashes from the wood stove. The industrious neighborhood squirrels will battle for the turf with our cats. Stay-at-home birds will continue to look for insects, seeds and grubs. We’ll bring the turtles we rescue from the puppies here to roost.
Almost done now: The hoses are drained, the tomato cages stacked. The water is turned off at the well house. That pair of rusty lawn chairs on the south side will wait alone for brighter days. Muddy footprints lead everywhere. The dogs have enjoyed the outdoor company, especially intrigued by the tomato stakes and leaf bags. Time to broadcast a few pounds of crimson clover cover crop and close the garden gate.