Thursday, October 6, 2011

What if gardening lengthened summer and shortened winter?


In February of this year, I got out my seed starting equipment; flats with clear plastic lids, heat mats, and built a temporary table in the basement and then hung grow lights over it. In March, I started several flats of seeds; basil, eggplant and some flowers.

A few weeks later, I came home from a greenhouse with flower seeds to direct sow in the ground. I spent much of April planning both how to build beds in our 10x10 foot community garden plot, and got through May planning where to put plants in dirt.

On June 3 our community garden plot was open for planting, and Jay and I loaded our car with pots, plants and planks to start our community garden. With the late start, June and July were all about water and growth. I started harvesting peppers, eggplant and tomatoes in August. 

Production slowed with a cool September, but I been steadily harvested tomatoes and peppers and a few more eggplant. We gained two more weeks of ripening by covering the plants, twice, to protect from frost. But with October’s shortened days and unpredictably frosty nights, it’s time to strip the peppers and green tomatoes and wait for a hard frost to sweeten the brussel sprouts.

There’s still garden work to do. Later in October Jay and I will clean out the garden, loosen the soil with a pitch fork and add horse manure and compost to fill in the settled beds. Then we’ll stake out two rows with string and plant nearly a pound of garlic (three varieties) which equates to somewhere around 30+ cloves. Finally, we’ll spread out a light layer of hay to protect the soil.

As I was grieving the end of the gardening season, I realized that this year, the gardening season was a full nine months long, significantly lengthening what I usually think of as a three-month summer of June to August.

Our garden provided planning, anticipation, birth, growth, harvest, preserving and completion. It provided great joy, a learning experience and an abundance of food for us and a local food pantry. I got to know more of my co-workers by gardening with them. And looking ahead, Jay and I will eat the fruits of our labor (salsa, baba ganoush, pesto and marinara sauce).

As the garden goes to sleeps, we’ll enjoy autumn leaves, carve pumpkins for Halloween, gather with family for Thanksgiving. Before you know it, we’ll move right into Christmas. The New Year will be upon us and I’ll have to trudge my way through the long, dark month of January. And in February, I’ll get out those seed flats and lights. Maybe winter isn’t as long as I used to dread it to be.