|I don't get pots of mums...|
There’s an odd seasonal ritual most New Englanders appear to observe. No, it’s not the one about not wearing white pants after Labor Day, although that’s also grist for discussion. Rather, it is that Labor Day somehow marks the official close the gardening season. People stop tending their vegetable gardens, they forget about their perennials, and they begin bringing home yellow and orange mums to replace their annuals.
I don’t get it.
Of course, I don’t get lots of things, including craft beers. But to me, Labor Day is just the back stretch of the gardening year. And as for mums, the idea of planting something in September that is guaranteed to croak with the first hint of frost just makes my head hurt.
|We have 200 tomatoes|
ripening. I intend to
harvest every one.
If you are a vegetable gardener, this has been a strange season. Betty and I normally sow ‘cold weather’ crops such as spinach and lettuce in mid-April. Not this year. Relentless bouts of frigid, rainy weather washed away two successive plantings. We didn’t see our first pick-able leaf vegetables until late May. Corn that is ‘knee-high by the Fourth of July’ was a cruel joke; we had three-inch-high sprouts on Independence Day.
But Mother Nature made up for her inattention to New England from mid-July onward. We have frozen and bagged enough green beans to last until the Apocalypse, and we are able to keep abreast of our zucchini production only by being very generous to our local Food Cupboard and driving around parking lots checking for cars whose owners foolishly left their windows down.
|On September 1, we|
topped our tomatoes
Moreover, I’ve got an entire square of corn that has only now ‘tasseled out’. We expect to pick sweet corn well into the month. We also have hot peppers that barely budge the needle on the Scoville scale. I’m holding out for 500,000 SHUs and if it takes until October 16 to get there, I’ll gladly keep weeding.
|One of the members of the community|
garden we manage decided to stop
weeding or cutting back her squash vines
For the past eight years, Betty and I have run a community garden that now contains 75 plots. My scientific observation is that everyone weeds assiduously in May and June. Come July, the gardening slackers begin practicing a kind of horticultural triage that distinguishes between weeds that the Garden Ogre will notice (and generate nasty emails) and so must be pulled, and those that are kinda-sorta of out of sight and therefore benign.
|This is our corn crop as of this|
morning. We should be able to
pick through the month.
And so, rather than devote the two hours it will take to get their garden back in shape, over Labor Day weekend they take down their fence and declare that they’ve had enough for one year. They go home and make gin and tonics. Whatever produce remains is fodder for birds and woodchucks. They clean their plots only at the end October after the weather is reliably cool.
And, while we’re at it, what exactly is so wrong about wearing white after August?