A record-breaking ornamental sweet potato.

A record-breaking ornamental sweet potato.

Gardening: Harvest, tidy and decorate

The brilliant leaves are beautiful to behold, but seem to fall faster than we can rake them up.

October can be a confusing month for many of us, and by that I mean, just how do you enjoy the fruits of your labors when there’s still so much to do in the garden?

The brilliant leaves are beautiful to behold, but seem to fall faster than we can rake them up.

You have more than enough squashes for even a die-hard vegetarian, yet you feel guilty leaving the excess to rot.

Even though you’ve decided that that’s the last time you are going to cut the lawn this year, it still just keeps on growing.

That person down the street always seems to have time to decorate for Halloween while you’re perpetually up to your eyebrows in weeds.

So to help you cope with all this seasonal guilt, I have come up with a simple philosophy that is kind of like Eat, Pray, Love, but for gardeners. I call it Harvest, Tidy, Decorate.

Harvest – We all get a little too ambitious when planting our vegetable gardens in spring, which is why there are so many tomatoes, carrots and squashes at this time of year.

My two eldest daughters had bumper crops of tomatoes and decided that the best solution was to can homemade spaghetti sauce.

On the other hand, squashes are in such abundance that they have become the Christmas cake of October, meaning nobody really wants them.

So I suggest that you start handing them out to people who have been less than kind to you over the year and let them deal with the guilt. That way, those who start receiving an abundance of squash will have an opportunity to reflect on their poor behavior and make amends before next year’s harvest, or else.

The other benefit here is that there is never a shortage of discourteous drivers, so keep a few in the car to pass onto those who cut you off or turn without signaling.

While we are on the subject of harvesting, I wanted to share with you the yam-sized tuber that was dug-up when an ornamental sweet potato vine was lifted at work. It had to weigh at least three pounds.

Tidy – The first thing I want you to notice here is that I said tidy, not clean. Tidy is the proper term for those ‘whisk under the carpet types,’ yet it works perfectly in a garden setting.

That littering of leaves on the lawn is hardly noticeable when they’re raked into adjacent beds (where they can cover the weeds). Or if you are feeling like double duty, just cut the lawn and bag them with the clippings.

Less than pristine summer flower beds look totally appropriate when a few Halloween decorations are added, giving purpose and a new lease on life to those otherwise blackened Geraniums.

As for all those dormant perennials, just tell the neighbors that you are leaving the seed-heads to feed the poor birds in the winter to thwart that annual look of reproach.

In essence, tidy is either pushing the obvious mess aside or just repurposing it.

Decorate – Now that you’ve put the guilt of rotting food and pending chores behind you, you are ready to decorate.

For me, this season starts as soon as the guy across the street begins erecting his full-size ghost pirate ship.

Then my daughters start bugging me to haul out the entire contents of my garage to create the annual graveyard.

So to help get you into the mood this year, I’ve posted an easy Halloween planter design at www.mikesgardenguide.wordpress.com.


– Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (hebe_acer@hotmail.com).