Fall Gardening

EarthSpirit LogoEarthSpirit Newsletter Fall 95
Fall Gardening
by Edward Crow

September fifteenth. It was almost twilight and very chilly. There might be an early frost. Half the sunflowers circling the garden had dropped their heads two weeks ago; now all were brown. But at dusk the burgeoning marigolds, almost day-glo orange and yellow, showed only a few dry petals; they could survive the night. So would the squash. The banana peppers and the skinny pointed cayennes wouldn’t. In past years the gardener rushed out to rescue the basil from the first frost threat, but not tonight because then she would come home too late from her toxic institutional job. Even so, she loves the smell and the feel of dirt and since she was beginning her fast for the equinox, she went out into the chilly garden and dug a few of her potatoes for dinner. She had to find them by memory in the near-dark because the plants were long gone.

The garden’s harvest began when the catalogs came. Growing the plants fed the gardener. She set out seed trays at southern windows in moments of gentleness stolen from the demands of work. She watched for the first sprouts, watered and sprayed, thinned the plants and turned them to and from the light to make them grow straight. And during all this seed time she was harvesting the strength of earth and plants, water and air and sun, to provide daily sustenance for living a magical life in a world of reason and pride.
A circular fence keeps critters out of the garden and the gardener’s magic in. Plants must be set out at the right time, even if it means getting up an hour earlier on a work day; they were planted not in haste, as a chore, but with a witch-eyed care. She crouched last spring in a drizzle putting rocks on sheets of mulch. She set out each plant in its place in her plan – putting charged gem-stones at the center, sunflowers on the perimeter, squash where it could run and climb, basil and tomatoes and marigolds for mutual protection without bug sprays.

For her, they grew, as always; they did not fail. For they knew she could not wait for fall, especially this year, to reap their strength for her spirit. So the first tender lettuce and small pink radishes came up soon and vigorous. Later the tomatoes blossomed, then the squash.

Some of the lettuces were early salads, and she picked the green beans when they were new. The tomatoes she ate were sweet with their basil garnish. But time this summer was so scarce that the plants grew to flower, to seed, to unexpected and unrestrained luxuriance. Much that might have been served at table or put up in jars now speaks little of utility but sings long rambling odes of abundance.

Abundance is this gardener’s idea and expectation of her garden. She tends it with her abundant love. And it never fails – not even one summer – to mirror back to her the abundant harvest of her magical gardening.

And now it is October. The feared early frost didn’t come. Tonight we will have tomato sandwiches. The marigolds have leaned in the September breezes, but their color persists. There are squash. And maybe we will still harvest enough basil for the winter’s pesto. But in the circle of the garden’s life, abundance begins to brown toward the aging of the year.

Though the days now are warm, they are still. The garden cannot resist the fall, and its abundance will return to the soil. The gardener sits in the sun and contemplates her dying plants. Their seeds, roots, sprouts, leaves, flowering and fruit, and their return of abundance have each been harvest in their turn to feed her spirit. Sitting there warmed by the afternoon, she draws the gardening within her again this fall. When evening’s cool comes early, she will go inside the house.

The gardener begins to let her gardening sleep till it comes again in dreams next spring.

Samhain is near.