Thanksgiving Day reminds me to give thanks to my garden for the lessons it has taught me through the years.
I’m not just talking about how to prune a Japanese maple tree or how to mulch a garden bed for winter. Those are good things to know, but I’m referring to the lessons of the heart that we learn from living in a special place. For me, that has been my garden.
Today, I’m looking back on the lives of loved ones, family, dear friends, loyal dogs and independent cats who have walked this turf by my side. The relationships we shared were shaped by the time we spent together, immersed in nature. Even strangers who come for a one-day visit have been moved by the home they find sitting in the middle of a garden.
How lucky for me to live in a place that has a positive impact on the soul of its inhabitants. I can attest to the fact that a garden helps shape our perception of the life we live. Even in difficult times, when my spirits were low and my heart was heavy, the garden reminded me that there are seasons in every life. That is just the way it is. Seasons come and go but there will always be another
spring, sometimes on the far side of winter and sometimes just around the corner.
If we did not play some part in the garden’s creation, it would still be beautiful, but we might miss the connection to our own life. It’s clearly our involvement that binds us emotionally. When we plant a tulip and then it emerges in the spring, we feel a definite connection to the process. The great allegory of gardening is that of playing a thoughtful role in the life we live. That, to me, is reason to give thanks.
Midautumn is one of the most beautiful times of year in the Northwest garden. Summer is a thing of the past. Winter is just around the corner, and yet mid- to late fall is awash with a kaleidoscope of autumn foliage. While other cities turn brown with the onset of colder weather, we take on deeper color hues. Northwest lawns even turn a rich, deep green in gratitude for the autumn rains.
As long as we have days of moderately warm air, warm soil and warm rain, turf grass will continue to grow. Warm-season lawns need to be mowed less often in the fall, while fescue in the mix might continue to grow enough to need a couple more mowings. Depending on a lawn’s condition, you may want to aerate to help make the soil less compact and encourage root growth. The best aerators remove plugs of earth by piercing the soil and pulling out the plug, like coring an apple.
After aerating, reseed the entire lawn area and add lime if necessary. A soil sample kit will help you decide what your soil lacks and what it needs to put it in peak condition. This is the most important time of year to add a slow-release fertilizer. For the best lawn, choose an organic fertilizer that feeds the soil with a mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and iron. The rate and frequency of fertilizing depends on soil and grass types as well as manufacturer instructions.
Most gardeners spend a considerable amount of time alone, working and thinking in the garden. In this mental realm we often feel most fulfilled by what the garden gives in return for our work. For me, the best way to see a garden is on my hands and knees with my face about a foot above the ground. From here I can see the world. Who knew that a chore as mundane as weeding a flower border would open the window to uninterrupted thought.
For most of us, spiritual moments in the garden are personal and private. A 100-foot-high Douglas fir dances in the wind, boughs waving as gracefully as the hands of a Hawaiian dancer. We hear voices in the rustle of aspen leaves. Inspiration is often difficult to translate into words, so we keep our most moving experiences to ourselves. Perhaps we are leery of others putting our spiritual ideas under a microscope. Still, one of the reasons we continue to garden year after year is the sheer pleasure of being in a personal relationship with Mother Earth.
Robb Rosser is a WSU-certified master gardener. Reach him at Write2Robb@aol.com.