Fall is an interesting time in the Bay Area; on the one hand, we really don’t have that designation of transfer from summer to autumn. Our Indian summer usually lasts until November; one week, it’s 90 degrees. The next, it’s 65 and will stay that way until early December. But, if your paying close attention, there’s a slight chill in the air in the early morning that tells you the season is shifting. As the days get shorter through October and November, the evening temps cool to tolerable much sooner than in August’s dog days.
Deciding when to put your summer crops to bed for the Fall can almost be a choice rather than a necessity – which is lovely and problematic at the same time. Personally, it starts toward the end of September; I find myself tired of tending to the plants that have gotten finicky in the autumn heat. I no longer see the garden’s full beauty or what she’s producing for me, only the troubled areas, and the urge to rip everything up becomes compulsive. When that starts to happen, I put a pause on my compulsion and start planning how I’m going to put the garden to bed.
We start by tearing out the plants that are dead and dying. Thank goodness I have a partner that errs on the side of caution and compassion; if not, I think our summer plants would be up out of the ground before the end of September. I make sure anything diseased goes in the municipal can, and the rest heads out to compost in the backyard.
Once a bed has had their plants removed, we take out any of the braces, trellis’ that shouldn’t spend the winter outside. We have several panels and tomato trellis’ that stay put over the winter; anything that is staked into the ground, we’ll pull up and store for the next season.
What remains gets moved closer together to allow for ease of watering;; and to remind me that they’re there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten about a plant on the far side of the garden only to find it withering away from thirst and neglect.
The last thing we do to put a garden to bed is add a thick layer of leaf mulch to the top of the ground. That way, throughout the winter, the leaves can break down and keep the weeds at bay. Come spring, we turn everything over with a batch of compost to get everything into top shape for planting again.
I know I started this post complaining about the end of the hectic summer season, one that brings so much joy and color into our lives. Especially this year! Our discovery walks through the garden each morning in spring, and summer was one of our great joys in an otherwise dreary time. This weekend as we pulled some of the plants that had given their last, we thanked each plant for the food and beauty they produced. And quite honestly, we sat and enjoyed the cool breeze that wafted through the garden as the sun warmed our back through the afternoon. It reminded me that Fall is a magical time in its own right. It gives pause to the chaos of life, reminding us that there must be an inevitable end for every beginning. A quiet nudge that there is a season to slow down, enjoy the harvest and finish off the last bits in the warmth before winter is upon us.