The endless Indian summer (or as it’s called in France, St. Martin’s summer) finally seems to be over. I await a snowy winter with great excitement. And I bet the garden is looking forward to it, too. A chance to recede, to quiet down, to regroup.

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In fall, I cut very little back. I don’t seriously clean up the garden until spring. I rake a few leaves here and there on the paths so no one will slip when they get wet, but that’s about it. The raked leaves get tossed into the flower and vegetable beds. I’m a devoted member of the Let it Rot School of Gardening. As a result, my soil seems to be excellent.

I also stop feeding the birds around the end of October. I don’t want to disrupt their migration patterns and as my birder husband points out, if we were to be gone in winter and no one filled the feeders they depend on, the little birds might freeze. So, by letting the plants go to seed, the few birds who don’t migrate have access to a little sustenance.

One autumn day a few years ago, my neighbor’s father-in-law (a lawn man if there ever was one) walked past the garden through the alley, and I overheard him growling, “Look at that mess!” He probably thought I was bringing real estate values down. (I suspect, too, that I was meant to overhear him.) My neighbor assured him that the place is much nicer when spring comes, but I doubt the old gent believed it.

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At least the many warm sunny days gave me an opportunity to finally clean out the shed. Among other things, I removed all the tires stored there from cars we haven’t had for decades. Soon they’ll be hauled away to the tire graveyard. But if that old father-in-law comes by, I won’t be surprised if he thinks I’m going to paint them white and plant flowers in them.

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