View from the deck on a glorious morning in early June.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Garden seasons by state of mind.

June  2014. (started early in the month, finished later)

Surely it cannot be the sixth month of a year whose date still sounds slightly unreal? Ruminations about time must be reserved for the rants blog, or I get side tracked even more than usual.

I am behind, of course. On the other hand we have been eating home-grown salads since early May, which is pretty good, and I froze my first bags of greens for spanakopita and non-palak non-paneer. One of the reasons this blog has been languishing is the lack of good photos. I have never liked the Canon Power shot A1300 as much as its predecessor, the A560. We finally figured out how to access the menus in the first, and cleaning the lens restored bulky Old Faithful. Better pictures coming soon, I hope.

Meanwhile I have been incubating a post about the states of mind that seem to accompany each micro season in the garden. Today is the first cold rainy day in some time, a perfect time for it. No pictures.

March/early April: Re-awakening.
We have starts under grow lights, and are slowly shifting into garden mode. "Brown Time" is the time after snow melt and before the grass and bracken kick in. The soil is still too wet to work, plants are sleepily stirring underground but not doing much yet. There are aconites, crocuses and snowdrops in the small flower bed underneath the living room window, but otherwise every green shoot is a rare cause for celebration.

We can walk all over the land. In winter the snow is too deep, in summer the bracken too high. Ideally, Brown Time lasts from about mid-March to mid-April, and is a leisurely season of poking and puttering, collecting stakes from the woods, dragging messy branches to brush piles for burning, raking up some of the dead vegetation from the bracken field to use as mulch later on, tidying up the flowerbeds, moving some perennials around.

In a not-ideal year like this one March is still winter and snow lingers till mid-April. We have to hit the ground running.

Mid April/early May: The season of promise.
We are fully engaged now. Perennials are popping up in the bare flower beds. Hardy starts like leeks and brassicas have been moved into the greenhouse, tender seedlings remain under lights but have been potted up. We are preparing the soil, one of my favourite things to do. Changing a lumpy weedy bed to a smooth dark  seedbed is so full of promise. Everything seems possible, even crops that look like the glowing pictures in seed catalogues. Could this be the year we pull it all together? The land is like a park, a total joy. Daffodils and primroses are blooming in the flowerbeds. The open spaces are green, but the bracken lags behind the grass. We can still see everywhere. 

Mid May/mid June: Obsession and Panic
I live, breathe and eat gardening. It is truly all I want to do, all I can think about, all I want to read about. If this state of mind lasted all year I would be a very boring person. (I may still be) Everything is still possible, but we now feel a sense of urgency verging on panic as the Solstice looms ever closer. Nothing seems more important than to get those last beds planted, those yearning babies in the greenhouse potted up, the flower beds trimmed and finished with annuals. I resent anything that comes between me and the garden work. Peace in the Middle East would be nice, but how will it affect my cabbages and irises? I am behind, of course. I love the work, but I would be much happier if only it were late April instead of late May. Bracken is coming up and unfurling.

Later June: Disappointment
It is becoming clear that once again this will not be the year of the perfect garden. We are still behind, torn between flower beds and vegetable garden. The weather has been too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. Carrots may need reseeding, beans have rotted in the wet ground,  spinach and Chinese cabbages have bolted in the heat.  Slugs have taken their toll, or flea beetles, or cabbage moths, voles, or all of the above. The novelty of having green leafy things to eat has worn off, but the peas are not ready yet. Disappointment season is brief but it happens every year. Bracken is fully up and out now, closing us in. The obsession is waning a bit. We remember that there is more to life than gardening, that minds and friendships need cultivating as much as the ground.

July: Resignation and jungle.
Winter seems impossibly far away. We have always been in the garden and we always will be. Not all visions came true, but the plants that are growing are doing it so fast we can barely keep up. I call it jungling. Besides, it is getting too hot to get upset. Who needs perfection? Let's do some beach, or flop down on the shady lawn with a good murder. In the hottest months the garden has to compete for attention with summer guests, the farmers market and the desire to have some summer fun.

August: The fullness of harvest.
The fullness of summer. Even in a bad year there should at least be zucchini and snap beans. Watering may become an issue. We are starting to fill the freezer. There are early potatoes. In years we have chickens this means we can put an entire home grown meal on the table, I love that.

September to early October: More harvest, and thinking of  next year.
The climate seems to have shifted. These days spring is late to warm up, but September has become a true summer month. This has been the pattern for some years now. I love September in the garden. The summer guests have gone, and we don't feel torn between garden and  beach. The days are cool enough for serious work. We are enjoying the plenty of this year, and leisurely working ahead for the next season, when the garden will be perfect, right? In a good year garlic gets planted between September 15 and October 15. In a bad year it gets planted with clumsy freezing fingers with the first skiff of snow already on the ground.....

Mid October/early November: Wrapping it up, working ahead, maybe.
Once it gets cold the garden feels like work. I may still put in a few hours a day, but when the temps fall below 7 C my hands start hurting after half an hour or so. Guess I am allowed some signs of old age. Brussels sprouts get harvested by sawing whole frozen stalks off and dashing back inside. We start to look forward to the winter break. If the raspberries get pruned before the snow flies, great. If not, by now we know that a painful chore in fall is pleasure in spring.

Halloween to Imbolc: REST.

In May I may picture myself studying and planning during the off season. The reality is that by November I welcome a break from the whole thing. Once the snow covers everything the garden is out of sight, out of mind. The cycle starts again in late January or early February, when we seed leeks. You can't plant them early enough.


  1. I really loved reading this.
    You write wonderfully and this speaks to me so much as a fellow Kootenay gardener. Even without pictures I can picture everything. Sharing on my page this eve :)

  2. Thanks! It was your post with the sad news about chicken kills that prompted me to finish it.

  3. Indeed. The seasons surely have a lot to do with my moods. Summer was late and spring long, cold and ugly. Oh well things have brightened up lately....;)

  4. Reading this two years later, the remarks about climate have become history. After several years when summer was slow to start but then lingered we had a nice early spring in 2015, with a cooler September. Spring 2016 was the earliest, warmest and driest ever.

  5. Addendum: In 2017 winter was old fashioned, though with more sunshine than we usually get. Lots of snow, and when it finally melted spring was miserable, cold and wet. Segued into a brief period of heat in late May, followed by more typical changeable rainbowy June weather.


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