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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Embrace The End of The Growing Season For A Happier Life

There are many signs that it is the end of the growing season in my garden.

The foxtails in the garden are taller than the tomato plants. In fact I’ve almost forgotten there are tomato plants in the vegetable garden because they are all falling down by their stakes, getting lost in the weeds. (Okay, there aren’t that many weeds out there, but the tomato plants are a mess.)

When I go into the big box stores and instinctively head to the “garden/seasonal” center, I run smack dab into a giant life size talking Santa statue, right next to a display of tulip bulbs marked down for “final clearance”.

The trees in the garden have all shed their leaves. I see the leaves on the ground and realize that once again, garden fairies aren’t going to come and magically take them away, so I rake them up or mow them to chop them up.

The frost is on the punkin”. This usually happens around the middle of October in my garden, but could happen sooner than that, or later than that. (I don’t really have any pumpkins and we don’t really say “punkin” in Indiana… okay sometimes we do when we are reciting this poem by Hoosier poet James Whticomb Riley).

Regardless of what signs you look for, there is going to be an end of the season for your garden, unless you live in the tropics.

It’s inevitable, so move on and…

Embrace the end of the growing season for a happier life.

Why fight the end of the season? I’ve seen some people attempt to cover their annuals and frost-tender plants in the fall the first time the weatherman says “frost”. They bring out old sheets, bedspreads, table cloths, and sometimes plastic sheeting, to carefully cover their plants. Again I ask why? Does it gain them an extra week? Maybe. A month? Rarely, unless it is an extremely early frost.

The idea of covering plants is to trap the heat that radiates up from the ground at night to hopefully raise the air temperature around the plants to a few degrees above freezing. So if the air temperature is going to fall much below freezing, even covering the plants won’t help, anyway.

I’ve seen people take a sheet or plastic trash bag and throw it over a small tree to protect it from frost, and then tie it closed right below where the branching stops, especially in the spring. Not only does the tree look like a ridiculous giant plastic covered lollipop, it isn't really protected from the frost. Why? No radiant heat.

By the way, be careful if you are using plastic sheeting to cover plants. It traps too much moisture, so should be removed promptly in the morning, provided the air temperature is above freezing once the sun is out. Also, if the plastic is left on during the day, heat can quickly build up under it and where the leaves touch the plastic, they can be scorched by too much heat directly on them.

Save yourself both time and worry and forget about covering plants in the fall.

Embrace the end of the growing season for a happier life.

Even after the first frost, there is still plenty of life in the garden. There will be flowers still blooming, like asters, mums, stonecrop, and pansies; leaves changing colors; and wildlife running back and forth in an entertaining manner eating seeds, nuts, and any fruit that falls to the ground.

In the vegetable garden, there can still be lettuce, spinach, radishes, and other cool season crops, just waiting to be eaten. And out in the compost bin? 'Mysterious processes' have made black gold, compost, ready to harvest. (Yes, the process of how compost happens is well known and understood, but it still seems mysterious and miraculous that such a process happens. Good thing, too, or we would be buried under plant debris by now.)

Embrace the end of the growing season for a happier life.

And should you think there is nothing to do in the garden at the end of the season… look around, you’ll find stuff to do, like fall clean up and preparing new planting beds.

It’s good to do some fall clean up, such as removing diseased plants and frost-blackened annuals, but don’t leave your garden clean swept at the end of the season, like you are closing up a summer cabin. Birds and beasts alike benefit from a bit of messiness in the garden, so do what you need to do to be happy and content, but leave some seed heads for the birds and some brush for the beasts.

And should the weather cooperate, the end of the growing season, fall, is a great time to prepare new planting beds for the spring.

Embrace the end of the growing season for a happier life.

*****

Other Embraces for a Happier Life

Embrace weeding
Embrace bugs
Embrace your weather
Embrace your soil
Embrace mowing
Embrace botanical names
Embrace never finished
Embrace garden journals
Embrace hard work
Embrace plants
Embrace the GADS


19 comments:

JeannieTheDreamer said...

I am so grateful for gardening and even if it is coming to a close, I know it will be okay. My mums will be the last to bloom and they extend all the way til end Oct. I have more indoor plants this year, and I will grow herbs.

And, I found something to do... read! You are invited to the party, see my blog..

Roses and stuff said...

I guess gardening wouldn't be as exciting if we had summer all along... Having to wait for spring adds excitement, doesn't it?
/Katarina

beckie said...

Carol, you have taught us so much this year about embracing for a happier life. As I looked at your list I remembered your posts and how much fun they were, but also how insightful some of them were. The same goes for embracing the end of the season. I used to be one of those that covered at the word frost, then would forget about removing it the next day-ending up losing plants that way. Now, I do embrce the changing of the season and just let nature take it's course. Thanks for another fun post.

JamesA-S said...

What a very lovely post. You are so right as to fight the weather only leads to frustration and, ultimately, failure. The frost bites its thumb at the feeble efforts of gardeners.
That said we are okay in England for a while: the leaves are still on the trees and lots of things are still flowering.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

This has been a concept I've been struggling with because there is much disagreement about what constitutes the end of the season here in central Texas. Although, we are nowhere near the tropics and can get a hard freeze anytime between mid-November and mid-March, most of us consider fall to be the beginning of our growing season.

Summer is a toss-up. This summer was terrible. Las summer was wonderful. Some people are able to grow Austin gardens successfully throughout the summer. I find it to be a constant struggle, a struggle that makes me frustrated and unhappy--not what I should be getting out of my garden.

So I'm experimenting with ways to embrace the end of the growing season--usually after July 4th to Labor Day. This year, the end came in May. At least for me.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Embracing sounds so much better when it is cooler. I like to get out there when it cools down to see what I should have been doing while it was so hot and miserable. I have a nice list of "to do" at this time of year.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

This one I can so embrace. Right now, I long for the end of the season, so I can clean up the garden and catch up on other things.

I can't believe I just wrote that. I must be jet-lagged from GWA.~~Dee

Cindy, MCOK said...

Since the growing season here on my corner of Katy is 12 months long, give or take a few days, I tend to embrace the transition between growing seasons rather than the end! I definitely look forward to what each transition brings, though, and the summer to fall transition is my favorite.

Kristy "Greenthumb" Guthrie said...

I already posted my "to do" list for the fall...it's long and makes me tired just looking at it. But now that it's cool, I really get to enjoy being outside!
So I will embrace the end of the growing season, knowing that there will be another just around the corner.

Leslie said...

I'm also embracing the change in growing seasons rather than the end. As a matter of fact I just checked my seeds yesterday...time to plant chard, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, peas and more!

Annie in Austin said...

I was one of those Illinois gardeners who squeezed the last bloom from annuals by putting overturned pots and bushel baskets over them when frost loomed. Sometimes we'd get one cold snap followed by weeks of pleasant weather and with Halloween, family birthdays and Thanksgiving in sight, I not only wanted those flowers to look good outside but needed them as cut flowers for inside. It was a relief to embrace the end of the season on the day after Thanksgiving!

Down here I sometimes wish the garden would take a rest. But as the other mild-winter gardeners note, we're sharpening our spades for planting. Winter means farewell to impatiens and zinnias and embracing pansies and snapdragons!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I'm way busier at the end of the growing season than in the middle. Leaf cleanup alone takes weeks. It's never done til there's snow covering the ground. Then there are bulbs to plant, things to move from containers into the ground for the winter and plants to bring inside. I don't have time to fuss with trying to protect annuals. Besides, I'm having too much fun.

Carolyn gail said...

I wish I lived in a place where I didn't have to embrace the end of the growing season. Sigh. I still don't know what they were thinking up yonder when they created winter. I could happily garden all year long.

But you inspired me to start an indoor garden and that cheers me up in the cold gray way-to-long Chicago winters.

MA said...

boy howdy do I embrace the end of the growing season. I am in Portland and when I left my garden in BOI, I took one last look and said, "If you freeze to death while I am gone,it was a good run." I like embracing the whole notion of "had enough" for one year. Time for books, garden books, garden plans, cleaning up, etc.

Kathy said...

Your trees have lost all their leaves? Really? Already? As to covering plants, I beg to differ here.

Cosmo said...

I've been embracing fall all day--all week, recently--like your Texas commenters, I can enjoy the garden again after the heat of the summer. Granted, the plants are fading and most will be gone by the end of October, but these days are heavenly--planning and digging and digging and planning (so you're right, it's kind of about the May Dreams . . .)

Gail said...

I am looking forward to an end to the heat and maybe a little rain! It still feels like summer here during the daylight hours. Remind me I said this if I whine this winter!

gail

Rose said...

Thank you, Carol; you've eased a burden of guilt from me. I was one of those who raced outside at the first mention of frost, covering beloved plants I didn't want to let go with old blankets. Then I'd rush off to work the next morning, and the blankets might stay there for a couple of days... This year I will let nature take its course!

I'd feel less guilty, too, if I thought your tomatoes were really surrounded by weeds as mine are, but somehow I can't quite believe that:)

Pam/Digging said...

I'm embracing the end of stifling heat, but not the end of the growing season. Here in Austin, it's the beginning of planting season--yippee!