Caroline Singer: Fall leaves, late summer squash and an abundance of color |

Caroline Singer: Fall leaves, late summer squash and an abundance of color

Gold leaves of flowering cherry enrich and protect the soil.
Submitted by Carolyn Singer |

When my favorite season arrives, I feel a peace that endures regardless of what is occurring in my world or the world as a whole. Fall brings a heightened awareness of abundance and connection in the natural world.

I see each leaf that falls as a promise of rest for the tree that bore it and a chance to add to the soil we steward.

Memories of past leaf plies in my landscape bring a smile, a memory of children, often accompanied by dogs, running and jumping into the pile.

The coveted leaves are used for sheet composting. Layers are covered with compost to hasten decomposition so I can use the material sooner in the garden. Sometimes these layers protect soil from heavy winter rains, are food for the worms.

Or I may create several layers, repeating the leaves and compost, and even some good garden soil, in a pile that will be ready to add to any garden area next spring as an amendment or as mulch on top of the soil. Edibles and ornamentals alike benefit from this nurturing.

Raspberries are particularly responsive, bearing more fruits on stronger canes when they are heavily mulched.

With the recent sunny fall days, I have been spending as much time as possible in my garden. Always it is the flowers, busy with pollinators that make me linger to appreciate this prelude before winter. A perennial sunflower has been a main attraction, its golden-yellow flowers busy with activity.

This summer I decided to plant a few morning glories on the cage that was to support my tomatillos. The cage has disappeared under these vigorous vines that have consumed everything in the proximity. The profusion of blue flowers is breathtaking. On cloudy days, the flowers remain open until the sun disappears behind Sonntag Hill.

Fortunately I can still reach the tomatillos. This had been a good year for production. My family will be happy to find that roasted tomatillo salsa is in plentiful supply.

Another crop I am especially appreciating in October is a climbing summer squash, “Trombetta di Albenga,” that I am growing for the first time.

I was drawn to the description in Renee’s Seeds: “This wonderful Italian heirloom summer squash is a vigorous vine, producing many 12- to 15-inch lime-green fruits with a curvaceous trumpet shape and a delicate mild taste, with a hint of nutty artichoke flavor. Trombetta’s flesh is seedless and firm and doesn’t get watery or mushy like regular zucchini.” Irresistible.

It’s a good thing I grew it a distance from the morning glory! This squash, planted in late June, has grown with abandon, its large, heart-shaped leaves and curling tendrils adding a lush canopy along a fence. How wonderful it is to be eating the squash now, as my zucchini and crookneck wane in production.

I always try to start a succession crop of summer squash midsummer, and this was a good choice.

While warm fall temperatures continue, the soil will cool slowly. Autumn is always the best season for landscaping, and this year is one of the best.

If you are considering a lawn but are reluctant to grow grasses that demand higher irrigation and attention to mowing, consider growing native yarrow (Achillea millefolium) that is more adapted to foothill conditions.

Needing little or no water once established, this vigorous evergreen groundcover is fire-safe.

Fall in the foothills: color, the sweet fragrance of the earth after an early rain, sunshine that is softer than the intense sun of summer and the promise of rest.

Linger to appreciate the season.

Carolyn Singer has gardened organically in Nevada County since 1977. She is the author of the award-winning “The Seasoned Gardener, 5 decades of sustainable and practical garden wisdom,” and two volumes of “Deer in My Garden” (deer-resistant plants), available locally. For more information, visit

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