The Barefoot Gardener


My husband is chief weeder and quasi-gardener around here, and when he broke his shoulder and ribs (yup, biking) early this summer, things quickly got out of hand. I’m just not a girl who likes to stick her hands in the dirt. I mainly didn’t worry about it because I didn’t invite anyone all summer (a husband with a massive injury proved a bulletproof excuse). But it’s not so simple when you live in the country, and it’s an easy destination, from well, just about anywhere. When family was arriving for my birthday in August, something had to be done! The hedges needed haircuts, our terrace was bursting with weeds, and the plot we use for herbs looked like it was on its way to pumpkin patch. To say nothing of those terrifying Wasp Killers burrowing between the cracks and hovering about. Our outdoor haven had become hell. I needed a fix and quick, and rung up The Barefoot Gardener. Caitlin Courtney came to my immediate rescue. She is a calm and smiley sort and gazed knowingly around the space. 

My main concern was whether it could be whipped into shape in under a week. She assured me it could and would. Within a few days, her Edward Scissorhandsish husband had tamed the shrubbery, the weeds (and wasps) between the bluestone had vanished (and weirdly neither have come back), and she planted a happy row of hydrangea where my herbs used to be. As an added perk, she filled our pots with tomato plants. Caitlin managed all this without a drop of poisonous pesticides, too (she leans heavily organic). 

You don’t realize how vital a bit of outdoor space is until its gone, and it’s once again my favorite spot for a cup of coffee in the morning and dinner al fresco. In fact, I’m writing this article from it, as I gaze contentedly around the property. Not exactly forest bathing, but close enough. 

Here are a few of Caitlin’s tips for fall:

Clean out perennial gardens, remove dead plants and stalks. 

Fluff the mulch; it extends the life of your mulch and creates the look of a well-kept garden. 

*Mulch keeps down weeds, retains moisture, and gives the roots more time to grow before they freeze. I use a small hand rake to quickly fluff and refresh the mulch in my gardens. 

Prune any dead branches. 

Fertilize with your favorite organic fertilizer; I use Plant Tone. 

Plant seasonal containers and window boxes. Asters, pansies, mums & cyclamen are favorites!

Dig and store bulbs like canna and other tender bulbs. Store in a cool, dry place. I store my bulbs in layers of burlap under the basement steps. 

Plant garlic now and harvest scapes in spring, followed by garlic in the fall.