As I planted garlic cloves along my sunny driveway yesterday, I was filled with gratitude for the blessings of yet another season in the garden. Each year, it seems that the day I plant garlic is the most beautiful of the fall season, and this one was no exception. Despite weeks of summer drought, multiple pestilences—need I detail? slugs, plant bugs, verticillium and then the ultimate indignity—the appropriation of our entire crop of green tomatoes by the squirrels—as I surveyed the brilliant color of red maple leaves against a clear blue sky, none of this seemed to matter. There is always hope in planting.
My gratitude is renewed every time I fill my harvest basket—in my case, an old aluminum colander. I harvested vegetables all season—perhaps not always the ones I had hoped to. Ripe tomatoes were missing, of course, and okra and peppers were often misshapen, greens made holey by the depredations of our insect neighbors; but such is life. On the whole, we have eaten well– it was another bountiful season. The garlic crop in July was perhaps the best ever. This fall my daikon radishes have pushed up above the soil, in sturdy diameters to beat those of any Japanese farmer’s crop. And we will have plentiful greens until the cold freezes the leaves solid.
That is not to say that we didn’t also enjoy a full season of flowers. From the first hellebores and narcissus, to the chrysanthemums now gracing the borders, they have been lovely. I’ve begun to forget about the slugs on the verbascum, and the struggling nasturtiums in the ungodly heat of July. The nasturtiums rallied once temperatures cooled off, and I’m already dreaming of new flowers to plant next year.
My occasional complaints notwithstanding, I must admit that the gardening season in a climate such as ours feels just right; there is tremendous comfort in its rhythms. As much as I know I will miss the garden during winter, I accept the final tasks of fall with joy. It’s a rewarding challenge to use up the last of the vegetable garden, and I’ve already collected seeds for next year’s flowers. Perhaps one day I’ll have a greenhouse in which to continue growing as temperatures drop– but for now, a surprising number of houseplants squeeze into the sunny windows of my house. And once winter comes, there will be ample time to plan next year’s garden.