Monday, September 21, 2009

In the Garden... Dirt.

It is quite possibly the most lovely Autumn in many, many years. Fall is arriving exactly on schedule, ushering in the season in a splendid manner with gentle rains. The rains have come at a perfect time to replenish the sub surface moisture before the freezes and thus insure the winter safety of the garden perennials. Plus they have provided dampness necessary for fabulous fungi, the like of which is rarely seen.
The leaves on the trees are beginning to thin and soothing sunlight is flooding the garden again. The tiny self-sown seedlings are emerging and the mornings have become pleasurable. As the sun travels to the south, fall awakens the gardener’s soul and we begin to emerge from the lull of late summer. Almost overnight the garden becomes a mass of overgrown exuberant flowers and foliage and there is a renewed energy and joyfulness about the raucous displays that have emerged. The flowers blooming in the final days of the growing season have the deepest color and the wildest foliage. It is as though Nature has saved the best for last in order to leave with us the impression of endless possibilities.
When the foliage in your garden begins to thin, it is a good time to check out the places where some plants have not done as well as others and smell the soil. Everyone who gardens knows that soil is alive and the well-being of your plants depends on the nutrients in your soil. When the children were little I took them to the river, the creek, the fields, and the woods to feel and smell the differences in the soil. Healthy soil has a rich distinctive aroma; soil devoid of nutrients looses this all-telling “dirt smell” and will need some help to regain any strength.
The texture of dirt depends upon the mineral content in it. Sand has the largest particles that can be seen, silts are very small and clays are microscopic. To acquaint yourself with the smell of healthy soil, go to a spot in your garden under a tree, dig a trowel full and inhale the aroma....it will smell alive. It has gathered nutrients from the leaves which have fallen and the grass clippings which have been thrown its way. The decomposition which has ensued over time has created a rich, nurturing soil full of nutrients, which is why the forest floor is always occupied. Since no amount of processed fertilizer can add to the garden what decomposing vegetation can add, remember to toss grass clippings and fallen leaves into the flower beds. Over the winter with rains and snow, they will meld into the garden, disintegrate, and replenish the soil while you are not noticing. The timely rains have already begun this process.