“The traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous harvesters is rich in prescriptions for sustainability. They are found in Native science and philosophy, in the lifeways and practices, but most of all in stories, the ones that are told to help restore balance, to locate ourselves once again in the circle… Collectively, the indigenous canon of principles and practices that govern the exchange of life for life is known as the Honorable Harvest. They are rules of sorts that govern our taking, shape our relationships with the natural world, and rein in our tendency to consume—that the world might be as rich for the seventh generation as it is for our own.” Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants. 2013

Fall brings us to the inevitable act of collecting the fruits of our labor. All summer we toiled in the sun to keep our crops alive and well fed, we watered, fertilized and protected them from pests. This applies to the ornamental plants in our gardens/landscapes as well – as these plants feed the soil and our local wildlife. Now, we see the Oregon Grapes turning red, orange and yellow with the colors of autumn. The winter squashes are mellowing and sweetening as the temperatures cool down, they brace themselves by thickening their skins. They are ready when the skin is hard, and ready for storage. Fall is the time to reap the harvest, and to carefully prepare our gardens for winter regeneration.

Mulching, composting leaves, and the left over vegetation fill our fall days in the garden and taking what we need, leaving some for the wildlife and decay (compost), so that next year we can replenish the soils for our gardens and landscapes.

I love Robin W. Kimmerer’s beautiful poetry and the wisdom that she shares with us – take what we need, leave some for the land so that the seed can replenish for the coming year’s crops. Some folks call this methodology “invasive” and random or volunteers – they are referring to plants – like calendula and borage that pop up everywhere. One year, the city of Portland required me to remove my calendula and borage, because they asserted that the seeds would spread to my neighbor’s community garden plot. Funny, they never really did, they knew enough to stay put in my plot. I pulled some of them, and secretly sheet composted them in the corner of my plot, so they would winter over under protection. I refer to the calendula and borage as my living, green mulch – they protect the soil, they provide forage and the bees love them.

October and November are busy times in the garden, think of this time as putting the garden to bed, and storing up for next spring! And, we reap the benefits in our kitchens, pantries, freezers and more…

Some good reading for fall:
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer,
High-Impact Low-Carbon Gardening: 1001Ways to Garden Sustainably: Garden Strategies for the preservation of the planet: The most fuel-efficient garden practices * Plants for a changing climate* Design for disassembly * New ways to compost * The safest pest control by Alice Bowe