Garden’s Twilight

It rained off and on for two weeks. Rain like we hadn’t seen in months, since before I was concerned with the health of my tomatoes or whether my late season seedlings would sprout. This rain coincided with a particularly busy time at work and a long weekend away for a friend’s wedding. After ten days or so I realized I hadn’t visited my garden. Certainly there was maintenance I should do  – weeding, pulling up dead plants and harvesting the last of the onions – but I wasn’t ready to start saying goodbye.

Yesterday was a beautiful fall day – the weather hovered around sixty with a cool breeze, the first of the fallen leaves crunched underfoot, and when not in the shade, I almost forgot it was October. In truth, the garden as a whole was still rather lush. Tomatillos, kale and herbs still thrived. Beans and squash and fennel, mostly done producing fruit and gone to seed, populated the plots with tall stalks and wide leaves. It was only upon closer inspection that I could see the imminent signs of winter: my tomato plants were nearly dead, my mint was browning, the remaining onion tops were dying back. The garden was telling me, even though I had to remove my jacket because of the sun’s warmth, that winter was coming.

I have been preparing for the end of this season’s garden since the spring, yet I am still always sad to see it in its elderly stage. My cupboards are full of canned tomatoes and dried herbs. My freezer is stacked with frozen fruit and vegetables. I have been even looking forward to ways I can nourish my soil over the winter to improve upon my bounty next spring. But yet…

Maybe it is because yesterday was a day that I would wish to replay fifty times over – a perfect fall day that ranks up there with those cloudless days in early June when summer makes its first appearance, that surprise spring day in mid-March when winter’s torment is suddenly forgiven and even that first fluffy snowfall at twilight. It should not be surprising that it is the first perfect day of any season that the rest of the days cannot seem to live up to, and leaves me waiting for the next, perfect day.

I suppose it is the same with the garden: no tomato ever beats the first plucked from the vine; no salad seems as fresh as the first leaves snipped from the ground. Like how the garden continues to give – we will have leeks and beets and kale and chard until November – so do the seasons. I will try to nurture what I have left and plan for what is to come.

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