As Autumn settles in, we northern zone gardeners start to think about next year, about the winter “rest,” about seed collecting, and canning, and weekends free.
And all of a sudden we realize—heavens, it’s mid September, the frost is only 3 weeks away, and I need to take the garden down! The garlic and the ornamental bulbs haven’t been ordered, let alone planted, and it’s a daily judgment call— leave the tomatoes another week? and another? and another? The last of the tomatoes and peppers and eggplants need to be picked and processed, the hoop house/cold frame built or repaired, the garlic and onions planted, the warm weather crops taken out, the soil prepped, the fences put away, the grass endlessly mowed as it starts to revel in the cool autumn days.
Oh yes, the grass. Huge swaths of the grass paths didn’t survive the last hot dry spell. Some just suddenly died for no apparent reason, some finally succumbed to the grubs (20 per square foot revealed when I peeled back the damaged turf. Ouch) I’ve patched with that seed-fertilizer-paper mulch mix, but it’s been two weeks and I’m not seeing any growth. I think my perennial decision as to whether to maintain the grass or give in and just mulch over the whole damned thing is about to be made for me.
I’m having to harvest the tomatoes a couple a day, just short of ripe, rather than letting them ripen on the vine. This is because the evil furfaces have a fine sense of the infliction of despair, getting the nearly-ripe fruits just one day before I would decide to pick them. I keep taking them off the vine greener and greener. I’ve lost probably a third of the crop this way, particularly painful this year as I planted only two thirds of my usual crop, and devoted a third of that to new varieties which didn’t do very well. Plus, the San Marzanos (more than half the pastes) are very blighty this year, so I got very poor yield from them.
Even as experienced gardeners, we fall into the trap every year— that summer is the busy time, and fall the wind down. In reality, summer is the watching time- waiting, weeding, slow and hot and lazy. Fall surprises me every year; the feeling that I am suddenly out of time, with too much to do. The frost is waiting, just around the corner.