I find it amusing how preoccupied I’ve become with the weather since starting this gardening journey. I know, I know… everyone must be as eager as I am to spend evenings watching a channel dedicated to non-stop, 24/7 weather reporting (snicker). But seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever thought this much about weather. Not too long ago, I found myself answering the “how are you” question with random weather facts: “I’d be better if we could just get some rain! Do you realize it’s been 17 days since we’ve had a good rain? I heard that we haven’t had this many consecutive days above 102°F since 2003.” For those of you looking for ways to stop a conversation before it starts, this will do it every time. Guaranteed.
All joking aside, weather plays a vital role into the planning and caring for a year’s crop. Each plant has different needs when comes to moisture levels, light and heat. During dry periods, growers need to plan extra time for watering when rain is not in the forecast. In hot summer months, watering needs to be restricted to the morning or night so the plants aren’t scorched. And when we get too much rain, we need to watch for and treat issues related to mineral deficiencies and disease.
One of the most crucial weather elements in gardening is frost. Growing seasons are measured by last frost (spring) and first frosts (fall). Frost provides a signal to growers that the soil’s temperature is preparing to change. In spring, the soil begins to warm soon after the last frost. This is why you will see me start seedlings indoors by March in anticipation of transplanting 6 weeks later. If you purchase seed packets, you will see directions about how long to wait before direct seeding or transplanting based on the “last frost.” Believe me when I say that you want to pay attention to this. Two years ago, in my eagerness to start our garden, I lost my spearmint plant overnight when an unexpected cold snap came in. Those of you who know the role spearmint plays in our family’s famous lemonade recipe can understand my sadness when I woke up that morning.
In the same way, fall frost indicates the soil is ready to cool. My friend Brenda jokingly refers to end of the season as the time we “put the garden to bed.” For us, it means pulling out dead plants (disease prevention), plastic, hoses, and support stakes. We also drain holding tanks, and till the soil. Some farmers will plant winter cover as part of this process.
This past weekend, warnings came for our first frost. These warnings meant getting out to the garden to pick any last vegetables from “tender plants” before Tuesday morning. My snow peas would be fine but the pepper plants & green beans needed to be picked one last time.
On Monday night, I ventured to the garden. I watched the sun slowly disappear and found myself a little sad that the growing season was coming to a close. In that moment, I felt the Lord nudging my heart. “Aimee… Why don’t you look up a few poems about frost?” Poetry? Really? You want me to read poetry? I heard nothing else in response which I’ve come understand is God’s way of saying, “just go with it.” Since I’m not well versed in poetry, I turned to the most logical choice based on the subject matter; Robert Frost. It only makes sense, right? In case you’ve never heard of Robert Frost, let me tell you that he is a historic award winning writer. There are many bloggers who would write circles around me in this area. That being said, I will do my best to communicate what I found as I read his works about autumn and winter. How do I put this? It was depressing. I’m not kidding. Most of his creative endeavors about this season paint pictures of grief, loss and death. Determining that I must have picked the wrong poet, I read a few other authors. Unfortunately, what I found was eerily similar. I found myself asking God, “What in the world are you having me read??” He almost chuckled as He responded, “Does it surprise you that this is a common view about this time of year?” My mind began wandering to conversations I’ve had with friends. They love the beauty of the leaves but look with dread to what is coming. A few of my friends suffer from seasonal depression (seasonal affect disorder). I had studied it in college. To this day, I find it amazing how our physical bodies and minds can be affected by the proximity of the sun, warmth and amount of light we are exposed to during the day. As I write this, it reminded me of my plants.
Over the next few days, God began to share His heart with me over the changes in seasons. Amazingly enough, He didn’t communicate grief, loss and death. He told me that these revelations were treasures that we had somehow lost along the way toward our urban jungle. We have missed so much as we’ve become detached from the soil. My conversations with God left me with so much to write; too much for one post. As a result, I’ve decided to start a series. Over the next few weeks, I invite you to join me as I begin, “Putting the Garden to Bed.”