No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.-John Donne
I felt it today. I felt the heavy, clingy, southern summer heat waver a bit. The highs have come down into the low 90’s and signaled it’s time to start preparing for the fall crops. I have never been a fan of fall. I grow my pumpkins in the spring, before the squash bugs come out and I prefer the verdancy of spring and summer. I’ve always considered autumn to be the bright yellow yield sign warning me that dreaded winter is coming, the dying foliage a depressing display of decline. And don’t get me started about the loss of daylight. I am up by 5:15. I wander around bumping into things and fumbling with cleaning until the sun comes up. If you saw me, you’d likely think I was drunk. When the sun isn’t up for hours, I’m a miserable somnambulist.
Here, though, fall offers a welcome respite from the weeds, the unrelenting heat and the insects that are sometimes too much, even for heat-loving me.
The peak of summer in the deep south, as opposed to cooler regions, is in many ways our least productive gardening season. The eggplant, peppers, sweet potatoes, melons and okra that don’t mind the heat, have to do battle with the weeds. Most other common vegetables hate months of intense sun and triple digit heat indexes. They wither and surrender no matter the water and we are not in a position to shade them all. At least in our mild winter, the greens and brassicas have less competition and that means less work for us.
So, this week, with a breeze and temps down in the low 90’s and upper 80’s, we are reclaiming the gardens.
The To-Do list:
Clear resting beds
Check and repair/move irrigation lines
Remove the spent plants
Lay what wood chip we have left
Direct sow beans and collard greens
Broadcast the next round of cover crop and rake the area
Take cuttings from the tomatoes and start them
Start fall seeds inside (onions, kohlrabi, herbs etc)
Prepare compost tea
Next month we will transplant the starts, direct sow root veggies, lettuces, and peas as well as start brassicas inside.
Starting seeds inside prevents gaps in the beds due to uneven germination and allows us to keep the tender starts from becoming guinea food so we use this method as much as possible but it isn’t necessary for everyone.
Fall starts with a lot of work but it pays off and doesn’t leave you feeling like some sort of weeding Sisyphus.
So bring on the dying leaves, the fake pumpkin flavored everything, the blasted bulky clothing and the near constant darkness because when this month is over, I will have earned a long sleep.
Chew on this:
Tanja Taljaard explains yet another benefit of contact with healthy soil:
Happy eating, Katy