In August, the gardener can be forgiven for wanting some time off. Forgiven that is, by other gardeners – the garden itself does not forgive and does not arrest the march of progress just because you’re tired of picking beans in 70% humidity.
I am not for a minute implying that you go on vacation. Such frivolity is for those with less important jobs – like medical doctors and US Presidents. Those of us shackled to the soil begin to understand early in our gardening careers why December cruises are exclusively populated by people who know what an F1 hybrid is.
Except we do grow weary at times, and once the blush of spring has worn off, a few parties have been thrown, and life moves out of technicolor dreams and into black and white reality, we grow extremely weary.
Though we may be physically present in our gardens, our minds have begun to wander towards the joys of next season’s garden without all the tiresome details that complicate the fantasy.
This is when we lose a plant or two to Egyptian-dry soil (though the hose is actually lying within inches of the pot). There will be other pots and better planting schemes, we think.
This is when we suddenly realize that the dirty mini-webs coating the rapidly browning climbing hydrangea are not those of friendly spiders, but evil spider mites.
That vine was getting too big anyway, we justify.
This is when we discover that yellow-necked caterpillars have completed their entire life cycle on the bones of our defoliated pyracantha. And the new seeds we planted for fall completed theirs within 24 hours of germination – bereft of water, punished by the sun and completely ignored by the resident gardener.
Never mind the time it took to set the training wire for the pyracantha. Never mind the time it took hours to get seeds planted and labeled. We just want to give up and start again in the spring.
Yet we must fight against such thoughts. Just for a little while longer.
Sooner than we think, cooler days and a crisp energy will return to the garden. We will enjoy wandering again. We will enjoy watering again. Even weeding will take on a rosy glow, suffused with the scents of autumn. If we lose perennial plants and tender seedlings due to neglect right now, we lose potential in the fall garden when we start to care again. And we will.
Don’t worry about projects right now. Instead, use your time in the garden to quickly scan for late-season problems such as mites, or dry soil, or a groundhog who has figured out you are not visiting the vegetable beds as regularly as you used to.
Scan for those problems and address them. Get neem oil prepped in a spray bottle in the evening or pull the Havahart trap out to set up in the early Sunday morning hours. When you go outside, move like Jason Bourne – in and out like a sting operation with maximum casualties.
And what of the problems that can’t be solved so easily?
Biblical swarms of Japanese beetles…Southern blight in the soil…A friend writes me that their well is slowly failing. There are certainly late-season problems that will require more than a bit of neem oil to solve.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to work with (and against) the smaller issues you can cope with but simply don’t feel like coping with, and if there are parts of your garden that must be sacrificed to the late-summer gods, so be it. Consolidate your assets and concentrate on smaller areas where you can enjoy the blessings and bounty of the fall garden. That may be a collection of pots on your patio – or an area of the garden planted with rustling grasses and wild-sown Verbena bonariensis.
Giving up might be an option (and believe me I’m struggling right along with you) but we’ve put a lot of work into our gardens – they’re worth fighting for.