This time of the year, the summer seems to hang over everything like a thick, sweat-drenched blanket. Still, in the midst of it there are suddenly magical moments that I come on by surprise, like clouds of yellow butterflies mud puddling on the fresh cow pies that rise up in a bright whirl around like a storm of fall leaves. Sun, rain, heat, and wind shift around each other, breaking up the monotony of late summer.
I finally got my fall seeds started. Some gardeners plant by extension dates, some people plant by the moon cycle, or a biodynamic calendar. I plant by opportunity and a sense of urgency around almost missing the season entirely.
It’s more than that, but I do find myself behind the ambitious gardeners. I had meant to get an early start on the season this year, but the weather was so boggy and summerish, I felt in my bones that the little seeds would do better if I waited.
I’ve done planting experiments with starting seeds for fall. Sometimes starting early doesn’t get your garden ahead. The later started plants grow better and overtake the miserable early-started ones. So I wait until it feels right, some indescribable sense of the season beginning to turn, and the fog of summer being swept away by a dry wind. Last week the summer felt endless, until a breeze came through one afternoon, blowing down the yellow spotted black cherry leaves in a flutter of color, and I knew then it was time to start the seeds.
There is a sense of the vitality of the tall, lank grasses that is waning, a shift in the scent of the breeze and the quality of the air. The songs of the cicadas are at the height of their pitch. I always feel excitement and uneasiness with this task. This small act of putting seeds in soil is to be the foundation of a major part of our sustenance for the next six or seven months. There are distinct differences between summer and winter gardening, and it has been the cycle of a whole, full year since I have taken this same step. Will I do it right this time?
No, of course not! I go ahead and do my best and see what happens. I’m not sure what I’ll do with 50 kolhrabi plants, assuming they all grow and thrive, but it feels like food security to have them.
This is what the garden looks like right now. The piglets (if they can still be called that – they are quite large. I think they are HOGS at this point!) have been turned loose to knock back the weeds. They are only in the front of the garden for now – where the vegetables were gone, replaced by Spanish needle and thick grasses. This is one of the best things about pigs (other than bacon!). They do great work in the garden, working much harder and faster than I could. The weeds were hip-high, and dense. It was more than just wading to get through them – it was a struggle. In just a few days, the weeds are gone, and the soil gently tilled. I think using pigs to clear the garden is one of the most brilliant gardening ideas I’ve ever had. Weeds and pests despair in the face of their busy, piggie little noses. I daresay the garden will actually be ready to plant first week of September, at this rate.