I am loving this incredible fall weather! These cool nights are really lovely and we have already had a bon-fire! So what does it mean for your garden? These night temperatures in the 40s have provided me with a big boost in my war on weeds. I have noticed that all those weedy vines of summer have begun to die back. The morning after that first cold night last week, I found my yard littered with air potatoes. I first thought it was a vengeful plot by theGarden Fairies for my having let a gorgeous 8-foot Vanda dry up and die. Because you know, littering my garden with those spuds that hold the power to bury me under a blanket of green leaves next summer would be the type of revenge a fairy would likely exact for Vanda-murder. But then I realized that they must have been dropped by the vines because of that abrupt cold, and when I looked up there was an air potato vine above my head, entangled with my vanilla bean vine in the top of a sable palm. Ahh ha! there was the rational explanation. Not fairy mischief at all, just the cold assisting me with ridding myself of these vining bullies.
This is the gift in shortening days and cooler nights. The weeds of summer simply recede and you can easily remove their flimsy remains. This is true with grassy weeds as well as vining weeds. Those shrubby beasts like Brazilian Pepper are a bit more reluctant to be gone, but this is the season to remove any that may be lurking, now, before their abundant seed ripen and spread. I also try to get a leg up on Balsam vine this time of year. Though it’s bright yellow flowers, ornamental orange fruit with vibrant red seed are viewed by some as appealing (Thomas Jefferson had this planted as an ornamental at Monticello) the balsam vines aggressive nature gives it away as a summer bully—choking out my coreopsis, thistle and other meadow wild flowers. One summer I fought it with fervor, attacking it with machete only to cause it to reproduce from every break it endured, getting thicker as the days got longer. Then one late September afternoon I realized it was simply shriveling up, receding like the tide leaves the beach, and I thought of all the energy I spent trying to defeat it. All I had to do was be patient and it would leave on its own accord. The plants weakened to the roots were easily removed in lengths of vine and underground runners. It did not return in the spring, nor any spring since. So the moral of the story is to work with the shifts in your garden, not against them. Choose battles when your enemy is weakest. When you align yourself with the natural rhythms of the garden, choosing the tasks that fit the season, honoring the natural flow of season into season, not only will you minimize your efforts, you will please the Faery.
And even when you can find a rational explanation for the happenings around you, it’s never a bad idea to hedge your bets with the fairies!