The autumnal equinox was this morning at 5:05 EDT. I was up, thanks to my mama foster dog, who needed to go out at 4:15. I always enjoy marking the changing of the seasons, although I admit I would not have minded waiting to do so a couple of hours.
Of all the “earth holidays,” as I think of them, I greet the autumnal equinox with the most melancholy. I am a lover of summer, and while I can put a good spin on the winter solstice (days are now getting longer), what can I possibly find to love about this date, leading as it does to the long, dark days of winter?
This year, however, I admit to being less sad than usual to mark the passing of the season. It was a rough garden year, weather-wise, and an intensely busy time for me both at home and at work. I’ll be almost relieved to have the garden (as well as the Learning Garden) put to bed in another few weeks.
I’m well used to ignoring the pressures of weedy beds, high grass, and other signs of my less-than-perfect garden, but what I find spirit-bruising is when there is food to be had there, and I either cannot get it harvested in time or I do get it harvested and it goes to waste due to a lack of time to use it or process it for storage. That has been a drag on my spirits this season, and I have vowed to never let another summer go by like that again if I can help it.
That will mean making choices, like whether my limited spare time is given to the many mama dogs and puppies I foster for PAWS or to the Learning Garden. What I found out this year is that I don’t have enough of that spare time to do both and give my home life the attention it needs: cooking healthy meals; growing my own food; keeping my chickens and ducks safe and healthy; giving my myriad cats and dogs the time and attention they deserve…oh, yeah, and occasionally passing a dust rag or broom around the place.
But that is food for thought on another day. Today I vow to extend the growing season (ha! so much for my “can’t wait to put the garden to bed,” huh?) Maybe it’s atonement for my summer “sins,” but I have a potentially lovely fall crop of beets, kale, chard, carrots, and spinach that I want to keep going as long as possible. I still have some Vermont cranberry beans growing, hopefully able to dry down in this damp weather, and lots of huge basil plants that will get made into pesto, perhaps even this Sunday morning before I haul the pups into State College to show them to potential adopters.
If you’ve been at the Learning Garden, you’ve seen the low hoops we used with row cover over the root crops. Most people use floating row cover to keep out insect pests or provide a bit of shade to plants that need it. We used it to keep whatever it was (groundhog? chipmunk? rabbit? all 3?) that kept eating the plants the moment they popped their little green heads above the ground. It worked, and we got a great crop of red and golden beets, turnips, carrots, and parsnips.
Now those same hoops can be used with greenhouse plastic to put off the end of harvest season by protecting summer-loving plants a while and then extending the season even further over cold-hardy plants, which is what I hope to do. It’ll also keep the deer out of my kale I hope.
If you are interested in trying this at your home garden, the Learning Garden has a bunch of the 4-foot high hoops for sale. Pat Leary used his contacts in the electrical field to get us a good deal on electrical conduit, and Brian Burger lent his Quick Hoops low tunnel bender (and his muscle) to turn them into hoops. We’re offering them for sale at the Garden for $4 each, the profits of the sale going to Learning Garden to fund next year’s seeds and plants.
I think they will be a good investment. I heard on the radio on my way into work this morning that the summer we had is what they think climate change will look like more and more: hot and dry periods, followed by heavy rains. It isn’t going to be easy these next few decades, but we can all do our part by following our motto to…
Buy It Locally Grown
or Raise Your Own!