The first frost always comes, quite unwelcome for this Florida-born gardener, but, at least this year, impossible to avoid. It has not yet been two weeks since I waited until the last possible moment to pull the remaining fruit from overgrown vines, working as quickly as I could in the cold, wind, and darkness, hands shaking from the low temperature, operating by the light of a headlamp. I checked the forecast probably twenty times that day, because it may, of course, miraculously change, right? All those tomatoes and peppers that filled the kitchen and overwhelmed both my free time and counter space all summer underwent an instantaneous transformation into rare jewels to be rescued and savored, just as they were when the season first began.
I spent a few hours this week pulling the dead annuals from the ground, cutting vines from their supports, and pressing the remnants of the summer into paper bags destined for the city composting facility. The sight of frozen plants always saddens me. It seems a terrible death, particularly when juxtaposed with patches of jaunty, green weeds, thriving in numbers regardless of the climatological circumstances.
Despite the specter of denouement, however, the garden always helps me look to the future. As much effort as I give to try to harvest the Romano beans before they are too large and tough to eat, I always miss a few. These clandestine fruit remain on the vines to ripen and produce seeds for next year’s crop. As millions of gardeners have done for thousands of years, I chose the largest legumes from the most prolific vines, gently encouraging the forces that shape this world to bend to my will. Next year’s harvest will be better than this year’s, which was more abundant than the previous.
With so many people returning to fieldwork after the quarantine, I was overwhelmed by projects this growing season. This coming winter should be a little quieter with more time for reflection. I will have the time to pore through all the photos I took as I tilled and harvested my little suburban plot, and there will be opportunities to share what I learned. Perhaps it will be more meaningful to contemplate the gifts from the garden while it lies dormant. I hope you will join me.