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Fall Gardening, Bah-Humbug

As the summer days get shorter and cooler, and the plants start to whither, stop flowering and quit producing fruit, I’m very sad. I hide indoors, preserving and freezing the harvest so there’s goodness to enjoy later. I wonder if I’m giving up too soon, whether there are crops that could be raised into the fall.

There are still a few weeks (in my growing area) before the first frost. This first frost thing is an average. Tomorrow, it might get cold enough with enough moisture near the ground to freeze sensitive plants, or it might wait until November. And, only certain plants (like basil) will be upset by a bit o’ frost. 

Then there are the vegetables that really are meant to grow somewhere that summer lasts longer, but we optimistic gardeners try anyway. I’m crossing my fingers that my celery, broccoli and Brussel sprouts get enough fall sun and warmth to mature. 

There are lots of cold tolerant species that can withstand it being a bit nippy. Kale is a particularly good example, and the root vegetables (carrots, beets, turnips) are ok, as they’re in the warm soil even if the air temperature temporarily dips below zero. Some crops even like it cooler, and wilt in the peak of summer heat, such as lettuce, spinach and arugula. 

My experience has told me that the fall is not all about temperature. You may roll your eyes. Of course, the other thing that happens in the fall is fewer hours of sunlight. What happens to me is the desire to sit in front of the fire, inside. 

Fungal things seem to enjoy the fall and run rampant. Mildew and mould and early tomato blight take their toll, infecting the gourds, beans, peppers, and (not surprisingly) tomatoes. 

What’s to love about fall gardening? I’ll still collect and hope for as many tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, Swiss chard, and beets as nature will give me. I wish the squash and melons hadn’t given out. I’m trying valiantly to find more ways to use cucumbers. Just when your feel you can competently deal with any number of zucchini, life deals you another hand, with zero zucchini and a full house of cucumbers. I harvested the carrots because some critter was digging them up and leaving the tops. I figured I should get some before they were all gone.

I’m trying to find the enthusiasm to get out there and plant some more stuff that I could enjoy in October and November. In November, I enjoy pulling the covers over my head and sleeping some more. In October, I pretend it’s still summer as much as I can, or wear a turtleneck and eat mashed potatoes, in front of the fire.

This is how I really feel:

Oh, fall, how do I hate thee?

Is it the cold, that makes me shiver, banishing the beauty and abandon I felt walking bare foot, wearing scanty, clinging frocks in the heat?

Is it the waining light, no longer awakening me with a green glow but instead darkness, long and abiding darkness, greet me in the morn, despite my need to wake and carry on professionally for a reasonable number of hours. 

Is it the birds and critters that so delight and amuse me in summer, who disappear, as far as they are able, maybe into my attic, as fall falls?

Is it the endless cloudy, rainy days, that prevent the bath towel from drying in 24 hrs., making it so much more complex to go out the door, even for a stroll. Summer beckoned me outside, into its brilliance, promising a kiss of warmth and requiring no baggage. Fall is nasty and needy, always threatening the ravages of the weather that must be endured and require equipment (umbrellas, mitts, boots, revised apple-picking plans). 

Is it that the year is ending? The end of optimistic plans. The admission that things slated to be done, won’t be?

Is it mourning the death of all the beloved green things – the ancient trees high above that shelter me in the summer heat, the pretty flowers that bring a smile to my lips with each bloom, the enduring grass carpeting outdoor spaces, the shrubbery border. My chest hollows as each shrivels into dormancy or death in the fall. I know most will be back next spring, or grown from seeds of their kind, yet I am still sad at their passing. It is the natural cycle. Yet I hate thee, fall. 

I hate thee fall for cold, damp darkness, the barren landscape, the death, the end.

So, no, I’m not doing any fall planting. I’ll harvest what I’ve nurtured through spring and summer, preserve what I can and hunker down through my least favour season. Winter I can endure, because it has no pretenses; it is pure, cold unpleasantness, but will end and bring spring. 

Any celebration of fall is an attempt to drown sorrow in pumpkin spice, trying to ignore the end of a whole lot of fun, bounty and easy living. 

Thanks for reading.

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