putting the gardens to bed for the season

drinks, fall, gardening, musings, wine

the blog

Prompted again by another “Grow Write Guild” post, I am writing about the transition that occurs in the garden during the fall.  It is such a beautiful time of year that builds in color, fans its vibrant wings, and flies by almost too quickly to experience its magnitude.


Even the word itself suggests movement, transition, and change.  When I grew up in Florida, I didn’t experience the full spectrum of seasonal change, as I do now in Colorado.  I kept poinsettias on my front porch throughout the month of December, cranked down the AC in order to build fires in the fireplace, and wore sweaters any day below 70 degrees, sweating, yet smiling, along the way.  I forced an excuse to celebrate a change in season or temperature, despite the fact that my climate didn’t let me fully experience it.

I have learned a lot from gardening this year.  Tomatoes need their space:   I was greedy when planing 12 tomato plants next to each other, each about a foot apart.  That was not a success.  Water needs to be dosed appropriately:  some plants need more, and others thrive with less.  Micro-climates shift each year:  shady and sunny spots ebb and flow, and planting zones should reflect this.  I think that keeping a sense of fluidity and non-permanence was one of the most important gardening lessons I learned.  I took good notes, and I will use them, when positioning certain vegetables and herbs this upcoming spring.

This is not necessarily a post about the specific lessons learned during the gardening process, however.  It is really a short essay about change and growth.  Fall is a rather abrupt season, where the long, bright, toasty days of summer drift into golden, sun-dappled, hazy indecisiveness.  And once Daylight Savings Time kicks in, well, we’re met with 4:30 sunsets and moody temperatures spiking at 70 at high-noon, plummeting down to the mid-twenties overnight.  This makes for a rather thought-provoking time of year.  Life transitions can branch into several directions; it is our choice to both interpret and actively direct them.

This shorter and darker season can suggest colder, bleaker days ahead; however, it can also ignite a necessity for change, root development, soil amendments, and further planning.  It is just way too easy to insert a garden metaphor here.  Instead of dwelling on the lack of daylight or time or warmth, choose to use this time of year to create plans and outline goals.  That is what our plants are doing right now!  They are digging deeper for nourishment, seeking out life-sustaining water, and concentrating their energies inward, planning for a stronger and more fruitful spring and summer.

Two weeks ago, we joined the other 12 gardeners at Ellis Community Garden in “putting our garden plots to bed” for the season.  We dug up our spent plants, cut them into small pieces, and composted them.  They will become next year’s fertilizer.  There is truly beauty and life in the breakdown of organic matter.  We tilled the soil and covered the plots with the leaves we raked along the school property.  Steve and I did the same thing at the garden here at the house.  Next year’s vegetables and herbs will thank us for the extra nourishment we are providing right now.  We will also thank them, each time we sit down to the table to enjoy their offerings.

Shortly stated, I am dealing with a breakup from the garden.  I miss the noticeable changes that occur each day.  Even more changes, however, are happening below the surface, unseen by you or me.  I am viewing this season of perceived dormancy as a season to strengthen my own roots, regain my own purpose and vision.  Those thoughts are well intended, but they only count if I choose to use this darker season for personal growth.  As I lay my garden to sleep for the colder months, I am casting aside goals, people, ideals that no longer serve me.   I am using those learned lessons as fodder and fertilizer to propel me even further into this upcoming year.

What changes are you making in your personal life?  Instead of dwelling on your perceptions of failure, why not learn from them and compost them into your current situation?  How can you let those moments of loss contribute and transition into moments of growth, just as the dead remnants of this summer’s tomato vines impart life into next season’s soil?

This is the last photo {above}  taken of our plot with Denver Urban Gardens.  I have decided to no longer garden here at this beloved community garden.  We have enough space at our house to enjoy goodness all year long, so that someone else, who might not have the land, can utilize this gardening space.  Goodbye, plot #13, my respite for over three years, now prepared for the next gardener-in-need.  You’ve faithfully fed my soul.  I can’t wait to drive by next summer and see what someone else has done with you, and vice versa.  I hope they see the time and love I’ve put into that soil, just as every gardener before me contributed to my annual harvest.  They will.  In each ripe tomato, each sprig of rosemary, and each sprawling acorn squash.  This song states the process, and this wine brought it full circle.

Tasted and paired recently…

Michele Chiarlo, Gavi, Le Marne, 2011, Italy

  • On the eyes  –  pale, golden straw
  • On the nose  –  orange rind, ripe tangerine, white peach, honeyed lemon
  • On the palate  –  crisp, dry, vibrant tangerine with spiced notes and pronounced minerality, graced with a lingering finish
  • On the table  –  pair with roasted chicken, halibut, or shellfish
  • On the shelf  –  under $20, a complete steal
  • On the ears  –  paired with Imogen Heap’s project, Frou Frou, “Let Go.”  I’ve loved this song since fall of 2005, when I first met my boyfriend, Steve.  This song invokes change from within and challenges growth, expectancy, and reckless abandon.

This post was kind of heady and wordy.  If you made it to the end, congrats, and pour yourself a healthy sip!

So, let go, let go
Jump in
Oh, well, what you waiting for?
It’s alright
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown
So, let go, let go
Just get in
Oh, it’s so amazing here
It’s all right
’cause there’s beauty in the breakdown.

– Frou Frou

  1. stevesteese says:

    Reading this post on a snowy winter day in Denver, even the late fall sun in these photos looks enticing. I will miss the old garden plot, you served us well, and we are still enjoying your bounty from last season!

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