To clean or not to clean
Fall comes quickly in Bluff Country, and this year is no exception. The summer vegetable gardens are done, but a few leafy greens, carrots and leeks still remain here and there.
Asters and Chrysanthemum may still have a few lingering flowers, but most of the perennials have stopped blooming. Ornamental grasses blow and rustle in the breeze, their delicate flowers and seed heads tempting you to create dry arrangements. Dried Hydrangea blooms practically beg to become part of your home’s holiday decor.
Years ago, professionals taught us to clip all of the perennials down and clean the garden thoroughly in autumn. Most of the plant material was sent to the compost pile and mulch was heaped around delicate plants such as roses and boxwood. We have since learned that insects and small animals use the withered plant debris as protection over winter. Cleaning the gardens and removing every leaf may have partially led to the downfall of our pollinators.
Inspect your plants throughout the growing season. It typically will not take a magnifying glass to notice when a plant is struggling. Some varieties of Maple and also Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) develop black spots on the leaves in humid conditions. Hostas, especially hybrid varieties, can be susceptible to a virus that causes the leaves to look mottled. Peonies can develop a fungus on the leaves in summer. All of these plants, along with any other plants that look diseased or damaged, should be cut back to ground level before winter. Composting the diseased leaves may cause the pathogen to spread. Burn any diseased plant material as soon as possible.
Many other perennials can be clipped back in spring. Birds love to eat the seeds out of the stalks of many plants. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea), Blazing Star (Liatris), and Asters provide food for the birds, as well as protection for overwintering pollinators like butterflies and bees. As as added bonus, the garden will have vertical interest! Peeking out of the snow, stalks of plants in various shades of tan, brown and black remind us that spring will come again.
Bundle up and take a nature walk on a chilly day. The landscape will provide interest all winter long if you look hard enough!
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk or water
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon ground sage
2 pounds ground venison
1/2 pound ground pork
Mix all ingredients well. Press into a greased or parchment-lined loaf pan, or form into a loaf on a baking sheet with a rim (it will drip grease). Bake for 60-90 minutes at 350°, or until internal temperature reaches 160°.